Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Best Movies Of 2016

It’s that time of year, the annual movie review. The movies listed below are the best of the best (in my humble opinion) of 2016.

  1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: This movie is a dream come true for any Star Wars fan. A prequel to Episode 4,  it abuts to the beginning of A New Hope and explains how the plans for the death star landed in the hands of the rebels. Starring Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, it is the perfect addition to the Star Wars franchise.
  2. Arrival: Arrival, starring Amy Adams is not the standard science fiction invasion alien film. It is about being human and dealing with everything that is human, while dealing with extra layer of potentially being invaded by an alien race. It could have been the typical schlockly science fiction film, but it is so much more.
  3. Denial: Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), a respected historian and professor must prove that the Holocaust happened when she sued for libel. A powerful story of how thin the line is between free speech and hate speech.
  4. Son Of Saul: Son Of Saul is about a Saul (Geza Rohrig), a prisoner in Auschwitz who is able to locate a spark of hope when he finds the body of boy he believes to be his son. A Holocaust film that is without sentiment, it is one of the more powerful Holocaust films that has hit the big screen.
  5. Indignation: Based on the book by Philip Roth, Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) is a young man of Jewish descent from New Jersey. Instead of going to college close to home, he attends a college in small town Ohio.  Against the backdrop of the Korean War and the sexual and social repression of the 1950’s, Marcus struggles to find himself.
  6. Florence Foster Jenkins: Florence Foster Jenkins is a socialite and an heiress living in New York City in the 1940’s. She has always wanted to be a performer, but her technical abilities don’t match up to her ambitions. A live concert will be a life long dream come true, but it could also be a cold blast of reality.
  7. Love And Friendship: Based on the unfinished novel by Jane Austen, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) is a widow who decides that its high time to live with her in-laws. While she is chilling under their roof and looking for a husband for her teenage daughter, she may as well find one for herself.

Here’s to the good movies in 2016 and the hopefully good movies that will be released in 2017.

This will be my last post for this year. Have a safe and happy New Year and I will see you in 2017.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Movie Review, Movies, Star Wars

The Top 5 Books Of 2016

One of my great pleasures in life is reading. I’ve read many books this year. Some were excellent, some were good and some I wanted to throw at the wall, they were so bad.

The list below are the five best books from 2016.

 

  1. Karolina’s Twins: Lena Woodward is an elderly widow who survived the Nazi Holocaust. She approaches the husband and wife team of private investigator Liam Taggert and lawyer Catherine Lockhart. Her childhood best friend, Karolina died during the war, but not before asking Lena to ensure that her children survived.This book is a heartbreaking and heartwarming tale of faith, friendship and a dying mother’s last wish for the children she will never see grow up.
  2. The Princess Diarist: Hindsight is always 20/20. I finished reading this book just before Christmas. The heartbreaking loss of Carrie Fisher earlier this week adds a new level of poignancy to the experience. In revisiting her experience while making Episode 4 of Star Wars (and having a brief affair with Harrison Ford in process), the reader is taken not just back in time, but into the mind of one of the most brilliant performers and writers of recent memory.
  3. Victoria: Daisy Goodwin’s brilliant fictionalized tale of the first years of Queen Victoria’s reign is remarkable.  What kept me reading was not her status and her title, but that she was a human being and an 18-year-old girl who is starting to grow up and grow into the Queen Victoria we think of today.
  4. Modern Girls: Set in New York City in the 1930’s, it is the tale of a mother daughter duo who find themselves pregnant at the same time. Approaching her 40’s, Rose has had 5 children. She thinks her days bringing children into the world are over. Rose’s daughter, Dottie has it all. A solid career, a bright future and a boyfriend she is ready to marry. Then she gets pregnant and not by her boyfriend. If the sign of a good book is wanting a sequel, then this is a really good book.
  5. The Two Family House: The Berman brothers, Abe not only work together, but live in the same two family house. Their wives, Rose and Helen are as close as sisters. Then they get pregnant at the same time. After the babies are born, the relationship between Rose and Helen is never the same. Soon the rift between the women begins to affect the whole family.

Here’s to the good books from 2016 and the books to be read in 2017.

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How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript Book Review

Readable/watchable dialogue is the backbone of every story. If the reader/audience member is not engaged by the dialogue, it is highly unlikely that they will finish reading the book or watching the movie.

In 2014, writer James Scott Bell published How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript. Breaking down writing dialogue into the nuts and bolts of writing, Mr. Bell shows how good dialogue engages and invites the reader/audience member to continue with the book/movie while bad dialogue throws the reader/audience member off and makes them question if they want to finish reading the book or watching the movie.

What I liked about the book is that Mr. Bell plainly lays out what good dialogue looks and sounds like vs. what bad dialogue looks and sounds like. He also recommends exercises that are designed to stretch a writer’s technical muscles and teach the writer how to write engaging dialogue.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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New Years Eve

With New Years Eve swiftly descending upon us, it’s easy to look back at what has transpired in 2016.

2016 has been quite a year for me. While it was far from easy, I can look back with a clear set of eyes and see how I’ve grown over the past 12 months. While some of that growth came out of mistakes and were painful in the moment, I know now that I have come out stronger and braver because of those painful mistakes.

On the writing front, I have hit a new record of readers and hits on this blog. I have also started on a new novel, which I hope to one day finish and publish. I read somewhere that easy reading is hard writing. I don’t doubt it. I can only continue to work hard and hope that my writing will get somewhere someday.

I turned 35 a few weeks ago, I hope that the second half of my thirties will be better than the first.

We lost so many brilliant and respected artists this year. If we only had a time machine to go back to last year at this time and warn us of those who would no longer be with us. But we can’t go back, we can only go forward and remember not just those who are no longer with us, but remember that we are still alive. Where there is life, there is hope and opportunity.

Wherever you are, have a Happy New Year and know that 2017 is full of possibilities.

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Flashback Friday-The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978)

Before Tina Fey, Rosie O’ Donnell, Leslie Jones, Amy Schumer, etc, there was Carol Burnett. Blazing the trail for female comedians for generations to come, Ms. Burnett is widely remembered for her work on the self titled comedy show, The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978).

Leading a comedy troupe that included Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, the show lasted 11 years and continues to be one of great comedies shows of any era of television. While there are so many legendary skits to choose from, the one that I and many others love best is the hilarious Gone With The Wind spoof.

Both the actress and the show were trailblazers. Not just for the incredibly comedy, but for the idea that women could be legitimately funny and play fully formed characters.

I recommend it.

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Poldark Character Review: Verity Blamey

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Poldark, both the books and the television series. Read at your own risk.

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 us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using Winston Graham’s series of novels, Poldark and the subsequent television series to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

In the previous posts, I wrote about the title character, Ross Poldark , his wife, Demelza, Ross’s cousin, Francis, Francis’s wife, Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s second husband, George Warleggan. Today’s post will focus on Ross’s cousin, Verity Blamey (nee Poldark).

Three of the standard character tropes for women are the love interest, the ex-girlfriend and the girl next door. In the world of Poldark, Demelza is the love interest, Elizabeth is the ex-girlfriend and Verity is the girl next door. Winston Graham’s answer to Anne Elliot from Persuasion, Verity is Francis’s sister. Unmarried and dangerously near the age of spinsterhood, she is the put upon daughter that is seen, but unappreciated by both her father and brother.

Like Anne Elliot, Verity’s choice of a husband is not exactly what the family had in mind for her. Captain Andrew Blamey is a Navy Captain who is whispered to have ill-treated his  wife. A widower with growing children, Captain Blamey and Verity are mutually attracted to one another, but her family’s objections to him will force her to choose between the man she loves and the family she was born into.

In creating a character like Verity, Winston Graham created a universal character. There are so many who feel like Verity. They are the ones that are not spectacularly handsome or beautiful, but they keep hoping to find a partner. They are the ones that stay within the familiar circle of family and friends out of loyalty and respect, even if they are unhappy.  When they do find happiness, they take that bold step, even if it means moving out of the comfortable circle of home and family.

Out of all of the characters within the Poldark universe, Verity is my favorite. She followed her heart, knowing full well that she would be estranged from most of her family. She is brave and bold and even if she is not as physically beautiful as Elizabeth or Demelza, her bravery stands out and makes her beautiful.

To sum it up: While Verity might not be the most obvious choice to be a heroine, Winston Graham clearly created a heroine. When one is bold enough to follow their heart and their gut, despite the objections of well-meaning family and friends, they become a heroine who can be admired and appreciated long after the writer has finished telling their story.

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Character Review, History, Jane Austen, Persuasion, Poldark, Television, Writing

Throwback Thursday- To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those books. Whether we read it in school or we read it independently, it is one of the most beloved books of recent memory.

It’s no surprise that it was made into a movie only two years after the book was published. Starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the white lawyer defending Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man accused of raping a white woman.

Harper Lee’s novel is perfect for the silver screen and made at the perfect time. A reflection of the turmoil and change that would soon affect America, it holds up as a respected classic that is as relevant today as it was in 1962.

I recommend it.

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RIP Debbie Reynolds

I’m starting to think that death is playing a sick joke on us. I’ve stopped counting the number of celebrities we’ve lost this year.

Two days ago, we lost George Michael. Yesterday, actress and writer Carrie Fisher died from a heart attack. A short time ago, it was announced that Carrie’s mother, Debbie Reynolds died from a stroke.

A friend of mine joked on Facebook that George RR Martin must be the man behind the throne this year.

Debbie Reynolds was one of the last living icons of the studio system. Her breakthrough role was in Singin’ In The Rain (1952), opposite Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Though Ms. Reynolds played the wide-eyed innocent in the 1950’s, her real life was far from her on-screen persona. She was married three times, her first husband, the late crooner Eddie Fisher was the father of her children, Carrie (of Star Wars fame) and Todd. Eddie infamously left his wife and children for Elizabeth Taylor after the death of Ms. Taylor’s third husband, Mike Todd. Enduring two more divorces and bankruptcy, Debbie Reynolds will stay in our collective consciousness as one of the legends of old Hollywood.

I have to admit that while I admired Ms. Reynolds for her decades long career, my favorite role of hers will be Bobbi Adler, Grace Adler’s(Debra Messing) mother on Will and Grace.

RIP Debbie, you and Carrie are back together.

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Happy Birthday, Maggie Smith

There are many who dream of earning their living as a performer. For all those who dream, only a small percentage will see their dreams become reality and an even smaller percentage will become legends for their performances.

Today is the birthday of Dame Maggie Smith, one the most respected performers on both sides of the pond.

Her two most famous roles are Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film series and the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey.


Both characters are well past their prime. In a culture where youth is prized over experience (especially for women), both characters not only proof that there is life after a certain age, but we can be as vital and alive in our waning years as we were when were young.

Happy Birthday Maggie Smith (and please be in the Downton Abbey movie, if it is made. Downton wouldn’t be the same without the Dowager’s one liners).

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RIP Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher left this world today.

I usually don’t cry when a celebrity dies, but today’s news has hit me very hard.

I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since my teens. The science fiction genre has, for the most part, been a boys club. If there were female characters within the genre, they were mostly background players, love interests or damsels in distress with little to no storyline or voice of their own.

Princess Leia Organa of the planet Alderaan changed all that. She could have been the space version of Snow White, warbling a space version of “Someday My Prince Will Come” and waiting to be rescued. Instead Leia is a bad-ass, smart-mouthed leader who has no problem stepping up to the plate and doing what needs to be done.

At the time of the release of the original trilogy, Leia became a hero to girls and women looking for a role model. Nearly 40 years later, Leia’s presence as an empowered women has touched a new generation. She also proved that a woman can be strong and still find an equal partner who is worthy of her.

Without Leia, there wouldn’t be a Buffy Summers, Xena Warrior Princess, Rey, Jyn Erso, or any of the capable and smart-ass women who have inhabited the science fiction/fantasy genre since 1977.

While Carrie Fisher is known for the Star Wars films, her career was so much more than those films. She was a brilliant actress and one of the underappreciated writers of this era. Her last book, The Princess Diarist, was one of the best memoirs I’ve read in recent years. She was in real life, a smart-ass, butt kicking, no nonsense woman who had no problem putting a spotlight on the bullsh*t in Hollywood.

Not one to hide her own flaws, she was public about her battle with mental illness and drug abuse.

My prayers and thoughts go out to her family. She will be missed. Star Wars will never be the same without her.

Z”l Carrie Fisher. May your memory be a blessing.

RIP.

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