Killing County Documentary Review

I would hope that no one joins a law enforcement body with the goal of purposefully oppressing and killing their fellow citizens. It is one of those professions that in a perfect world, we would admire and lift up those who make it their life’s work. But we live in the real world, where police brutality has become just another headline.

The new three-part Hulu documentary, Killing County was produced by Colin Kaepernick and Ben Meiselas of the MeidasTouch podcast. It follows the news coming out of Bakersfield, California, where a number of men (mostly with a darker hue) were killed by police. The audience follows the investigation into their deaths and why the cops immediately reached for their weapons instead of using other tactics.

This is a must-see film. The hardest interviews to watch were those of the family members of the victims. Through their eyes, we were seeing their loved ones as human beings, not a name on a police report or a quick sound bite on the evening news. What I took away from it was the right that we, as citizens, have to tell the law and the judicial system when they have gone too far.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Killing County is available for streaming on Hulu.

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28 Summers Book Review

The concept of a “soul mate” is an interesting one, at least as I see it. This person is supposed to be the one you spend your life with. But what happens when fate takes them down a different path?

Elin Hilderbrand‘s novel, 28 Summers, was published in 2021. In 1993, Mallory Blessing inherits a beachfront cottage in Nantucket from her recently deceased aunt. Her first guests are her brother, Cooper, and his friends. The reason for the celebration is his bachelor party and upcoming nuptials. She immediately bonds with Jake McCloud, one of Cooper’s college buddies.

Though they have an opportunity to solidify their relationship, it remains in the air. The exception is one weekend a year when he comes to visit and they watch Same Time, Next Year (1978). As the years pass and things change (Jake marries and has a daughter and Mallory becomes a mother), the connection remains as solid as it ever was.

Then Jake receives a call from Mallory’s son. She is dying and wants to see Jake one more time.

I loved this book. I was immediately drawn in. Though Jake and Mallory do not have a traditional love story, their unending affection and respect for one another is something to wish for. The narrative is tragic, romantic, full of heart, and a delicious read.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

28 Summers is available wherever books are sold.

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80 for Brady Movie Review

There is a stereotype about a woman of a certain age. She has (hopefully) lived a full life and is taking full advantage of what her golden years have to offer. Some women are content to sit back and relax. Others see further adventures on the horizon.

The new movie, 80 for Brady, is based on the true story of four older women who are Tom Brady and New England Patriots superfans. Maura (Rita Moreno), Betty (Sally Field), Trish (Jane Fonda), and Lou (Lily Tomlin) are the best of friends. They win four tickets to the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston and have a weekend that they will never forget.

This movie is adorable. It is entertaining, and funny, and shows the power of friendship. It also proves once more that females who are long past their youth are just as vibrant, spirited, and open to new ideas as their younger counterparts.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

80 for Brady is currently in theaters.

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Sanditon Character Review: Young Stringer

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

I apologize for not posting last week. I had other writing that had to be done.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the book and the television show Sanditon. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

We all have dreams. What happens when those dreams clash with what our parents want for us? In Sanditon, Young Stringer (whose legal name is James) (Leo Suter) wants to be an architect. He and his widower father, known as Old Stringer (Rob Jarvis) work for Tom Parker. While he dreams, Young Stringer knows that it will take work and drive to get to where he wants to be. He also comes home to a father who would prefer that his son set his sights a little lower.

Encouraged by Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), Young Stringer sees a professional future outside of Sanditon, even with the stringent class structure that could hold him back. He also develops feelings for Charlotte, who is equally ambitious and not afraid to get her hands dirty. But she leaves him in the friend zone.

After an accident disables Old Stringer and then a fire kills him, Young Stringer decides to stay in Sanditon, even after being offered an apprenticeship that could open doors for him.

To sum it up: Young Stringer is a young man with heart, enthusiasm, and a bright future. The question is, where does that future lie? In making that decision, he proves that success on one’s own terms is possible, even with the obstacles in his way.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

You People Movie Review

These days, interracial and interreligious marriage is (mostly) accepted. That does not mean, however, that the families of the engaged couples are welcoming of their child’s future spouse.

The new Netflix movie, You People, is the love story of Ezra (Jonah Hill) and Amira (Lauren London). The perceived problem is that Ezra comes from an Ashkenazi Jewish family and Amira comes from a black Muslim family. It is essentially a cinematic love child of Meet the Parents (2000) and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).

As expected, the clash itself does not come from the couple. Ezra’s parents, Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Arnold (David Duchovny) are liberal, white, and tone-deaf. Amira’s parents, Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long) are trying to understand why their daughter has chosen to marry outside of her faith and culture.

While Ezra and Amira are doing their best to keep their love alive, outside forces may tear them apart.

Co-written by Hill and Kenya Barris, the movie tries to address the cultural and religious issues that come between the characters. Instead of bringing these questions to the forefront in a way that makes the audience laugh and think at the same time, it falls flat on its face.

The worst aspect of the film is that anti-Semitic stereotypes are thrown around like a football. The most offensive of these is the adulation of Louis Farrakhan and the spreading of the lie (which has been proven to be false) that Jews dominated the Atlantic Slave Trade. As an MOT (member of the tribe), I am offended and disappointed that Hill took the easy way out. It’s one thing that if the story would have been entirely written someone who was not Jewish, that would have been an objectionable act by itself. But the fact that Hill is Jewish makes it ten times worse.

The shameful aspect is the misuse of the comedic leads, Murphy and Louis-Dreyfus. These two performers by themselves are legendary in their own right. And yet, they are relegated to tropes that are 2D and stilted.

Do I recommend it? No. I don’t say this very often, but You People is one of the worst films that I have ever seen.

You People is currently streaming on Netflix.

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The Lions of Fifth Avenue Book Review

Sometimes, life throws us a twist when we least expect it. What matters is if we choose to go along with that twist or pretend that it never happened.

Fiona Davis‘s 2020 novel, The Lions of Fifth Avenue, starts in 1913. Laura Lyons is living the dream. Happily married with two young children, Laura’s husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library. This allows them to live in an apartment within the library. But she wants more than just being her husband’s wife and her children’s mother.

Things begin to change for Laura when she is accepted into the Columbia School of Journalism. This leads her to the Heterodoxy Club, a group of women who meet in Greenwich Village, flout society’s norms and openly discuss their discontent with being second-class citizens. This opens the door to Laura questioning her life choices and possibly losing everything and everyone she loves.

Eighty years later, Laura’s granddaughter Sadie Donovan is working in the family business. Though she is thrilled when she is promoted to becoming the library’s curator, the questions about her family’s past hang over her head. Her dream job becomes an ordeal when books start to disappear.

In order to save her career and the exhibit that had become her primary responsibility, Sadie has to put her fear of risk aside and work with a private security expert. The investigation goes from strictly business to personal when uncomfortable facts about her family and the building itself come to light.

The book is amazing. Everything that has been said about it is true. Davis’s writing is gripping and powerful and immediately draws you in. The protagonists, Laura and Sadie are easy to follow. In another writer’s hands, it would be easy to get confused with the dual narratives and the numerous characters. But the author writes in a way that each era is clearly delineated.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue is available wherever books are sold.

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Flashback Friday: Queer Eye (2018 to 2021)

One of the myths about gay men is that they are more stylish and culturally aware than the average straight man.

The Netflix show Queer Eye (2018 to 2021) is a reboot of the early aughts reality makeover show of the same name that aired on Bravo. As with its predecessor, five gay guys with expertise in various areas (fashion, food, grooming, culture, and design) helps (mostly) hapless heterosexual males to improve their physical appearance and their lives.

This show is so much fun to watch, mainly because the stars of the program are having fun. As an audience member, I am rooting for that episode’s subject, wishing that they get everything that they want from this experience. It also opens the door to see the LGBTQ community as something more than stereotypes and boogeymen for those with conservative beliefs.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Florida Republican Fuckery II: Banning Books & Tracking Girls Periods is Priority. Saving Lives via Sensible Gun Control is Not.

When someone says who they are (specifically in politics), we should believe them. Whether we believe it or not, they hold our collective future in their hands.

The recent Republican fuckery from Florida is as follows:

There is a debate going around as to whether or not high school-age female student-athletes should be required to provide details about their menstrual cycles. Aside from the anti-transgender laws, the consequences of the potential loss of a woman’s right to privacy cannot be ignored. Whether it is a question of the ending of an unintended pregnancy or forced birth (a la The Handmaid’s Tale), we should not be looking away.

Adding insult to injury, teachers in the state are being forced to make a choice that no educator should be forced into. They can either remove books from their shelf/curriculum that have been labeled as “woke”. If they choose to ignore the law, they face a possible jail sentence of five years. And then, there is the proposed legislation to allow anyone to buy a gun without requiring permits.

I don’t know about you, but DeSantis’s priorities are seriously screwed up.

I am going to end this post with two Instagram posts from Danielle Moodie (co-host of The New Abnormal podcast) and actor Leslie Jones.

Warning: Moodie is not above using the F-Bomb.

Throwback Thursday: Celebrity Undercover Boss (2018)

One of the many dreams of a struggling artist is to be noticed by someone who has already made it.

The reality show, Celebrity Undercover Boss (2018) was an extension of Undercover Boss (2010 to 2016). Instead of a CEO going undercover to discover the issues with their company, the subject of each episode is someone famous. Wearing prosthetics and/or a wig, their goal is to find undiscovered talent and give them the tools to succeed.

I enjoyed the program. Though I am aware that there is always the question of how much of the narrative is “real”, it was not out of the realm of possibility. Sometimes, the struggling artist only needs to be noticed by the right person to see their dream become a reality.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Playing Anne Frank Podcast Review

Among the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust were 1.5 million young people. This cumulative experience of the lost generation speaks to us via The Diary of Anne Frank.

In 1955, the book was turned into a play. The new 7-part podcast, Playing Anne Frank, tells the behind-the-scenes story of how the play was made and its impact on everyone (both the audience and the creators) involved. Mixing historical media with interviews of surviving cast members, it brings the drama to life and reinforces the importance of the work.

I have enjoyed listening to the first 3 episodes. For obvious reasons, both the original text and its various stage/screen incarnations are still relevant, even after all of these years. What I am appreciating is the insights of the cast and that they understood the necessity of sharing Anne’s story.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

New episodes of Playing Anne Frank are released every Tuesday.

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