Monthly Archives: October 2015

Late Flashback Friday Post-Halloween Style-Scream (1996) and Carrie (1976)

Horror movies can range from psychological (a la Alfred Hitchcock) to outright gory (a la Eli Roth).

Today is Halloween. In honor of the festivities that is Halloween,  I will be looking at two different horror movies in this post.

In the 1990’s Halloween and scary movies were represented in one single title: Scream (1996).

Directed by the late Wes Craven, Scream stays both within the boundaries of the horror genre and also steps out of it. Sydney (Neve Campbell) has just lost her mother. While she is coping with the loss, she is also dealing with a violent stalker/killer, who calls his victims to ask what their favorite horror movie is before killing them.

This movie is more than the typical blood and guts horror movie. Intertwining elements of comedy and psychological horror, the film keep the audience on their toes and their eyes glued to the screen. Wisely opening the film with an homage to one of the greatest horror movies of all time, Psycho, Craven and future Dawson’s Creek show runner Kevin Williams opens the movie with the character of Casey (Drew Barrymore), who will become the first of the killer’s victims.

While I am not a huge horror film buff, this movie is just enough to prevent me from sleeping soundly.

The other movie I will be discussing is Carrie (1976). Based on the book by legendary horror author Stephen King, Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) does not have a happy life. An outcast at school, she is the target of jokes and insults from her classmates. At home, her mother Margaret (Piper Laurie) abuses Carrie because of the difficulties that she has faced. Carrie is surprised when she is not only invited the senior prom, but she is also named homecoming queen. But some of her classmates have an ulterior motive. What none of them know is that Carrie has developed telekinetic powers which she will use to take her revenge on those who tormented her.

Yes, this movie falls into the horror category. But to me, the horror is not the traditional horror. It is the treatment that Carrie receives that is the true horror. But what makes this movie so satisfying is Carrie’s revenge, especially if the audience member/reader feels disenfranchised either at school or at home.

Do I recommend them? Yes. Happy Halloween

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Late Flashback Friday Post-Halloween Style-Are You Afraid Of The Dark? (1990-2000)

The scariest stories are sometimes told by a burning campfire.

Between 1990 and 2000, Nickelodeon had its own version of telling scary stories via campfire in Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

The episodes focused on a group of kids who called themselves “The Midnight Society”. Gathering around a campfire, each member would narrate a specific episode. While the stories were enough to make some in the audience jump, they were not as violent or gory as they could have been.

Some of the actors who can list this program on their resume include Elisha Cuthbert, Vanessa Lengies, Joanna Garcia-Swisher, Jay Baruchel and Jewel Staite.  Looking back, the horror is a little PG. But for a kids show, it’s plenty scary, especially for those with enough of an imagination.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Becoming Un-Orthodox Book Review

Coming out of the closet is not easy, but for those in the closet, it provides a freedom that compares to nothing else. While coming out is mostly associated with the LGBTQ community, it can also be associated with those who break from the ultra-religious communities that they were born into.

Late last year, Lynn Davidman published Becoming Un-Orthodox: Stories of Ex-Hasidic Jews. Reared in the world of Orthodox Judaism, she came out and left Orthodox Judaism. In the book, Ms. Davidman interviews a group of former Orthodox Jews, all, whom for various reason, are no longer part of that stream of Judaism. Their reasons for leaving include sexual abuse, not feeling like they fit in and for several of the women profiled, they felt restricted by the rules imposed upon them because of their sex. 

While the stories were interesting, Ms. Davidman’s writing style was a bit dry. There is also an issue of repetition within the interviews, which sometimes felt like the interviews were blending into each other.

Do I recommend it? I will have to go with maybe for this one. Unless the reader is using the book for academic purposes or has some knowledge of Orthodox Judaism, this book might not be well received by some readers.

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Throwback Thursday-Television Edition-The Jeffersons (1975-1985)

The 1970’s were a time of upheaval and change in America. While some show runners were content to present the status quo to the audience, Norman Lear knew that America needed to see itself reflected on the small screen.

After the monumental success of All In The Family, Lear knew that it was time for a spin-off. The Bunker’s neighbors, George and Louise Jefferson were taken out of working class Queens and into a Manhattan high-rise. Titled The Jeffersons, George and Louise now have live in maid, Florence (Marla Gibbs), who loves nothing more than to torment her male employer. The Jefferson’s neighbor’s Helen and Tom Willis (Roxie Roker and Franklin Cover) are an interracial couple, which was unique for television at that time. Add in Harry Bentley (Paul Benedict), another neighbor, whose roots are across the pond and a relationship between the Jefferson’s son and the Willis’s daughter and you have the future of America reflected on television.

Like it’s predecessor, The Jeffersons was funny, controversial at times and forced the audience to not only look at the world around them, but accept that the world was changing.

I recommend it.

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Throwback Thursday-Ragtime (1981)

The early 20th century was a historical game changer. New immigrants were entering America by the millions, disenfranchised minorities were fighting against the prejudice that kept them down and the social ruling class were trying to deal with the changes that were becoming obvious.

In 1975, E.L. Doctorow published Ragtime, a novel based around three different families living in America in the years leading up to World War I. Intertwining fictional characters with the real life events and personalities, the novel bring to life the era in brilliant color and sound.

In 1981, the book was made into a film. Tateh (Mandy Patinkin) is a Jewish widower who has recently immigrated from Eastern Europe with his daughter, hoping for a better life. Mother (Mary Steenburgen) is the matriarch of an upper middle class WASP family. Coalhouse Walker Jr (Howard E Rollins Jr) is an African-American fighting against the injustice of the era while trying to win back his ex/mother of his child, Sarah (Debbie Allen).

The danger of a story like Ragtime, with a large cast of characters and multiple story lines running concurrently is that the reader/viewer can easily get lost.  But not this story. Times may have changed, but human beings are still human beings. Which is exactly why this movie still holds up after more than 30 years.

I recommend it.

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Work’s a Bitch and Then You Make It Work Review

We all know that life and work by extension is not easy. Nor is it fair. There are always complaints about the a**hole boss, the catty or lazy co workers, the extreme overflow of work combined with a lack of staff, etc.

We have to get over it, and find a way to deal. That is according to Andrea Kay in her 2009 book, Work’s a Bitch and Then You Make It Work: 6 Steps to Go from Pissed Off to Powerful.

There is an old quote by writer Joe Klaas: “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

Ms. Kay provides straight forward, real world advice on how to deal with whatever we are experiencing in our professional lives (or lack thereof if the reader is looking for a job). She also asks the reader to take a long hard look at themselves  and figure out what they can do to change their view of the job.

What I liked about this book is that Ms. Kay does not coddle her readers. There are many career coaches and experts who will coddle their readers or place the blame solely on the employer (which is not always the case).  By not only providing confidence and forcing the reader to stop throwing themselves a pity party, she is allowing the employee or the job seeker to turn the negative into a positive and fight for what they are seeking professionally.

I absolutely recommend it, especially for those who are unemployed or seeking to change jobs.

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As If Book Review

There is something to be said for a movie that twenty years after its initial release, the reception it receives is warm, loving and reminds audiences why they loved it in the first place.

Clueless turned 20 this past summer. To celebrate and explore the impact of the film, journalist Jen Chaney interviewed members of the cast, the crew, director/screenwriter Amy Heckerling and others in her new bookAs If!: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew.

In taking readers behind the scenes of the making the film, Ms. Chaney explores the pathway from pre-production to filming to post production, the initial reviews and then ends the book with the legacy of the film. As a fan of both Clueless and Emma, I found this book to be fascinating and entertaining. This book is as endearing, warm, charming and entertaining as it’s subject.

I absolutely recommend it.

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RIP Maureen O’Hara

Maureen O’Hara passed away yesterday.

With her red hair, peaches and cream complexion and fiery tongue, she played against some of the most masculine and iconic actors of her day: John Wayne, Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn.

Two of my favorite movies of hers are diametrically opposite.

The first is The Quiet Man (1952). Sean Thornton (John Wayne) is an American boxer returning to his family’s ancestral Irish village. He is attracted to Mary Kate Danaher  (Maureen O’Hara), and is eager to marry her. But before Mary Kate will agree to marry Sean, he must obtain her dowry from  her hard headed brother, who is refusing to part with it.

One of my favorite qualities of her character is in this movie is that Mary Kate is no shrinking violet. She knows what she wants and has no problem speaking her mind to get what she wants.

My other favorite Maureen O’Hara movie is Only The Lonely (1991).  Danny Muldoon (the late John Candy) is a single man whose life is dominated by loving, but overbearing mother, Rose (Maureen O’Hara). It is only when he meets Theresa Luna (Ally Sheedy), that Danny could possibly stop his mother from treating him like a child.

It is obvious that Rose loves her son, like a parent should. But like some parents, they forget that their adult children have their own minds and are capable of making their own decisions.

Maureen O’Hara was 95. RIP.

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Stolen Legacy Book Review

During World War II, the Nazis took everything from their victims.  Today, the living heirs of some of these victims are fighting to reclaim what was taken from their ancestors.

Dina Gold is the author of the memoirStolen Legacy: Nazi Theft and the Quest for Justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18, Berlin. Ms. Gold is the descendant of the original owner of the building. For many years, her mother’s family ran a successful business. But when the Nazis came to power, they forced all German Jews to give up their property. While the author’s family was lucky ( her mother escaped to then British controlled Palestine with her parents and siblings before the borders closed), others German Jewish families lost everything, including their lives.  

The book chronicles the author’s long fight to prove that she and the rest of her living relations are the legal inheritors of the building.

The subject of the book was fascinating. She tells the story as it if it were fiction instead of real life. My problem with the book is that it gets so bogged down with details is that it becomes too dry near the end. But otherwise, it’s not a bad book.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Flashback Friday-Mulan (1998)

Disney is known for its Princess line. The problem with this is that up until recently, the heroines have followed the same trajectory in terms of plot line (i.e. princess looking for a prince, the standard happily ever after,etc).

In 1998’s Mulan, they tried a new plot that did not revolve around their heroine looking for a significant other. Based on the Chinese myth, Mulan (voiced by Ming Na-Wen) is an only child. Like all girls, she is expected to conform and eventually marry. Then the Huns invade and all men are expected to serve in the army. The problem is that Mulan’s father is getting up there in age and she worries that he will not survive.  Pretending to be a boy, she takes his place.

Her ancestors, who try to discourage Mulan send Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy), to stop Mulan. But Mulan is determined to take her father’s place and Mushu, seeing that she will not change her mind, stays with Mulan. Will she survive and will she be unmasked? What will be the consequences of her choice?

This is Disney dipping their toe in the sea of feminism. While it is not full feminism (that would come with Brave in 2012), it’s not a bad movie and the message to the young females in the audience is certainly more empowering than past films.

And with every Disney movie, comes the obligatory theme song.

Do I recommend it? Why not?

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