Flashback Friday: The Blind Side (2009)

Education, as we all know, unlocks the key to our future. When we don’t have access to that education, that lack of access has the possibility of lifelong consequences.

The 2009 film, The Blind Side, is based on the true story of former NFL player Michael Oher. The narrative comes from the book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, by Michael Lewis. In his teenage years, Oher (Quinton Aaron) was a young man who had almost nothing. Coming from a large African-American family that was dealing with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. Taken in by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her family, he is being given the opportunity that many of his peers will never receive.

When he shows a spark of interest and the ability to play football, this opens the door to a life path that he never expected.

Without knowing anything about the real people behind the story, it is a tale of seeing potential in a young person who does not believe that they have any. Bullock won an Oscar for the role and deserved it. Her role is that of a mama bear who loves and protects her young ones with a ferocity that never wavers.

There are two perspectives on the movie. The first is that it is at heart, a white savior narrative. From a certain point of view, it is extremely problematic. The other is that it humanizes the white evangelical Christian Republicans. These days, it’s easy to demonize this crowd. This story shows that they are just like the rest of us, even when we disagree on a litany of topics.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Thoughts On the Hocus Pocus 2 Trailer

When Hocus Pocus premiered in 1993, critics didn’t have a high opinion of the film. Almost thirty years later, it has become a cult classic and a staple of the television schedule in the fall.

The teaser trailer for Hocus Pocus 2 was released this week. The story as we know it to be (as of now) is as follows: three young ladies light the black flame candle and bring the Sanderson sisters back to life. Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy) are once more eager to wreak havoc on the residents of Salem.

Though it is not clear if the original child actors (Omri Katz, Vinessa Shaw, and Thora Birch) will be returning, it looks (as of now) to be a perfect follow-up to one of my favorite childhood films.

Hocus Pocus 2 will be available for viewing on September 20, 2022, on DisneyPlus.

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Throwback Thursday: Thor (2011)

It has been said that pride goes before a fall.

In the 2011 film, Thor, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), is the first born son of Odin and Frigga (Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo). The heir to the throne of Asgard, he thinks that he can do no wrong. When his arrogance gets him into trouble, Odin sends Thor to Earth (Midgard). Falling for scientist Jane Porter (Natalie Portman), he has to learn humility while saving both realms from his vengeful younger brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

This movie is so good. It’s funny, it’s charming and entertaining, and Hemsworth is the perfect actor to play the role. Hiddleston, as usual, is spot on and proves once more why he is one of the best actors around today. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the Shakespearean influence is subtle, yet powerful.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

P.S. Who else is excited for Thor: Love and Thunder. I know I am.

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Our Father Documentary Review

For as many couples that are able to have children the old-fashioned way, there are numerous others who cannot conceive naturally. That is where modern medicine comes in.

Our Father is a new documentary that recently dropped on Netflix. It starts with an at-home DNA test. The woman at the start of the film knows that she came into the world via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). When the results come back, she discovers a horrifying secret. Her mother’s fertility doctor, Donald Cline, said one thing and did another when he injected the sperm into his client’s eggs.

As I watched this film, I got so angry. This man, for whatever reason, chose to play G-d. A doctor is supposed to save lives, not play with them for their own disgusting purposes. In doing so, he has potentially messed up multiple generations, while pretending that he did nothing wrong.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Our Father is available for streaming on Netflix.

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The Martha Mitchell Effect Documentary Review

In every era, there are heroes that are recognized for their bravery. Then there are other heroes who are only acknowledged for their contributions long after that time has passed.

Martha Mitchell is one of those heroes who, unfortunately, is only starting to be seen and respected. The new Netflix documentary, The Martha Mitchell Effect, dropped recently on the streaming channel. In the early 1970s, she was married to John Mitchell, who was then the Attorney General for Richard Nixon. Not exactly known for being the meek and silent type, Martha was quick to blab to the press about her husband’s legally and morally dubious work. Silenced by both Nixon and her husband, she was made to believe that she was crazy.

I wish I had learned about her earlier. When we talk about second-wave feminism icons, Martha Mitchell is a name who rarely comes up. After watching this movie, I felt like she should be given a second look by modern feminists and historians. She dared to take on a corrupt administration and tell the truth when many stayed silent.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Martha Mitchell Effect is available for streaming on Netflix.

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If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings Book Review

School used to be a place in which we nurture the minds and futures of the next generation. It has in recent years, become a place of death and heartache.

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings, by Loren Kleinman and Amye Archer, was published in 2019. Inspired by a text sent by one of the students who survived the Parkland shooting, the book follows the history of school shootings. Interviewing survivors and family members of the victims, the reader is taken into the emotional heart of the experience and the reverberations that last long into the future.

I really enjoyed this book. It hit me in the right place. I was both angry and sad. I was angry about the lives that were lost. I was sad for the families who would never see their children grow up. What struck me was that most, if not all of the shooters fit into a certain type. They are mostly angry white males who have a grudge and turn to violence to get back at those who they feel have wronged them.

The aspect of the book that has stayed with me was the responses from those who survived Columbine and the other shooting that occurred in the late 1990s. Many of us who were on the verge of adulthood back then are now parents. Though it has been decades since they were nearly killed, hearing the news immediately took them back to that day. It is a reminder that trauma of this kind never truly leaves us, regardless of how many years have passed.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings is available wherever books are sold.

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Dirty Rotten Cleaners Review

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find cleaning my home to be a chore that I would do without if I could. But it has to be done, so I just suck it up and get it done.

Dirty Rotten Cleaners premiered on A&E last year. This reality show follows two different cleaning companies in Florida as they clean the properties of their customers. Their task is more much than the standard clean. Many of these houses are filthy, filled to the brim with junk, and covered in mold.

What I like is that unlike other programs within the reality television genre, the truth about this job is not glossed over. It is genuinely gross and dangerous. Similar to its’ sister show, Hoarders, the clients are not used for a laugh or pushed into a stereotype. They are merely the patrons who need their properties cleaned.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Dirty Rotten Cleaners is available for streaming on Hulu.

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Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel Book Review

A bookstore is much more than it seems to be. It is a magical place in which dreams become reality and we can travel as far as our imagination takes us. It is also a place of business in which office politics and society’s rules play a role in the work environment.

Natalie Jenner‘s new book, Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel, was published last month. It takes place in 1950. Bloomsbury Books has been in London for a century, catering to the city’s book lovers. While times have changed, the store remains firmly stuck in the past. The staff (who are mostly male) are ruled by a list of 51 rules that are unbreakable. Despite this, the three female employees are doing what they can to break boundaries.

Vivian lost her titled fiance to World War II. He was killed in action, leaving her heartbroken. Five years after the war, she is focused on her career. Fashion-conscious and incredibly smart, she knows that she can do more than her current responsibilities.

Grace finds solace in her job. Married with two young sons, she is the sole source of income for her family. Though she loves being a mother and is trying to be a good wife (in spite of her husband’s faults), she would love to do her own thing.

Evelyn has raised herself up from being a farm girl and housemaid via a university degree. When she is turned down for an academic position due to her gender, she takes the job at the bookstore. Just because she is down does not mean that she is out. She has a plan for the future.

I love this book. Like its predecessor, it is well-written, charming, and completely entertaining. I was immediately drawn into this story of three women navigating a world and a job in which they are second class. Instead of shrinking and meekly accepting their roles, they stand up for themselves. It is a lesson that unfortunately, is just as relevant today as it was 72 years ago.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

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How to Save Money in NYC

We all know that NYC is an expensive place to live. As much as I love this city, I am fully aware that the cost of everything is higher. But, if you know where the look, there are ways of saving a few dollars.

  1. Take public transportation. Like anyone who lives there, I am fully aware of the downsides of using the MTA to get around. But even with those problems, there is no beating that for one fare, you can go from one end of the city to another, 24/7/365.
  2. The dollar store is your best friend. Not everything is cheaper than the big box stores, but the deals may be surprising.
  3. Not everyone can afford to live alone. Though the roommate experience is sometimes hit or miss (as I painfully remember), it is the most economical way to reside here if you cannot afford an apartment on your own.
  4. If you need furniture, there are multiple options: local stores, Craigslist, various apps, etc. If you must buy new and prefer to go to a name brand store, hit up Target or Ikea. They are a pain in the ass to put together (even if you have to pay someone), but overall, it is worth it. The pieces I bought from Ikea more than a decade ago are still in good condition.
  5. When it comes time to get a haircut, find a local salon. Their work is just as good as the expensive salons and many will throw in a free blowout. In my experience, the ones owned by AAPI owners provide a pretty good service at a price that will not break the bank.
  6. Buy in bulk, large sizes, and store brands. If you do have access to a car, stores like Sam’s Club and Costco are worth the drive and the membership fee.
  7. Take advantage of the opportunities to be outdoors. Most, if not all of the parks and beaches are free to enter.
  8. If you are a bookworm like me, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the public library. If you must buy a book, hit up a local bookstore or 2nd hand store/thrift shop. This is also good if you are looking for a gift for someone. Now granted, you might not find exactly what you are looking for. But you never know what you may find. My favorite bookstores are the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan (great for browsing), Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, and of course, Housing Works.
  9. If you have a New York State driver’s license, you can get into some museums for nothing or almost nothing.
  10. Use Yelp and Time Out. Yelp is great because the reviews come from customers. Time Out has listings for things to do that will please almost anyone.
  11. Finally, if you want to see a Broadway show, there are ways to have this experience that will not empty your wallet. If you are willing and/or able to climb stairs, seats on the upper levels of the theaters are always cheaper. For me, it’s about the experience. I don’t mind going up a few flights. Organizations like TKTS sell tickets at discounted prices. However, not every show is listed (especially the popular shows) and the desired seats are not always available. There is also the option of going to one of the booths. The primary one is located in Times Square. Just prepared to be waiting in a very long line.
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A Lady for a Duke Book Review

I hope and believe that anyone’s greatest wish is to love and be loved in return, regardless of who they are.

Alexis Hall‘s new regency romance novel, A Lady for a Duke, was published last month. Up until Waterloo, Viola Caroll hid her true self. When it appeared that she did not survive, she took the opportunity to become the woman she knew she was inside. But there was a price to pay for being herself.

Among her losses is her best friend Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. When they reunite years later, Gracewood is a shadow of his former self. Relying on alcohol and other substances to dull the pain, he has become a recluse who is living in the past.

Doing everything she can to bring back the man she knew, new feelings of both the physical and emotional kind bubble to the surface. Viola wants to tell Justin the truth, but doing so may cost her everything she has fought for.

I love that the cover is giving me Beauty and the Beast vibes. I also love that the heroine is transgender. It was a lovely change to a genre and a narrative that many of us know all too well. The problem is that the spark between the main characters is missing. While the author does a great job of keeping us in Viola and Justin’s heads, the all-important “will they or won’t they?” question is missing. I badly wanted to root for them. But the chemistry that should have pulled me in was simply not there.

Do I recommend it? A highly disappointed no.

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