Monthly Archives: April 2017

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer Movie Review

The definition of a macher is one who get things done. Or it can be used to refer to a person who is overbearing, depending on the person being spoken of.

Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) is a macher. The title character in the new film Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, Norman calls himself a fixer. He often drops names of the wealthy and powerful in hopes of getting a foot into their world. When he buys expensive shoes for Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), a low-level Israeli government official, Norman has no idea how his world and his reputation will change in the next three years.

Written and directed by Joseph Cedar, this film has almost universal quality to it. Every culture, every religion has their own version of Norman. My problem is that despite the stellar cast, this film was for the most part unappealing. There were some laughs to be had, but not as many as I anticipated. Not that I expected a Marx Brothers-esque narrative, but I was hoping for a few more laughs.

Do I recommend it? I may have to lean toward no on this film.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer is presently in theaters.

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Filed under Movie Review, Movies, New York City

Thank You Ellen DeGeneres

Sometimes, for the world to change, it takes one brave person to step forward.

20 years ago this week, Ellen DeGeneres came out of the closet, both on-screen and in real life.

In an episode titled “The Puppy Episode”, Ellen comes out of the closet to her therapist (played by Oprah Winfrey), to her crush Susan (played by guest star Laura Dern) and to the world.


It was nothing short of world-changing. Coming out of the closet is far from easy, but Ellen made it that much easier. The influence of that single sentence heard around the world is priceless. Without Ellen, not only would LGBTQ fictional characters remain secondary characters, but people in the closet in real life might never have had the courage to be themselves and fight for their rights.

Thank you Ellen DeGeneres for being yourself and encouraging others to do the same. Our world is a better place because of you.

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Flashback Friday-Clueless Television Series (1996-1999)

For every success in Hollywood, there is an attempt to replicate that success.

In 1995, the movie Clueless, based on Jane Austen’s Emma hit the big screen. The film was a resounding success.

A year later, the television series Clueless hit the small screen. Airing for three years, Rachel Blanchard stepped into the role of Cher, taking over for Alicia Silverstone. The narrative of the television series continued in the same direction of the movie with many of the same characters that film audiences loved in 1995.

As I recall, the television series was merely ok. While it attempted to replicate the magic of the film, something was lost along the way. I can’t put my finger on it, but it felt like a second-hand replacement.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Emma, Flashback Friday, Jane Austen, Television, TV Review

Pride and Prejudice Character Review: Lydia Bennet

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the book.

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 the characters from Pride and Prejudice to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

One of the standard character tropes that is seen time and again is the dimwitted teenage girl whose only thinks of two things: boys and clothes. In the world of Pride and Prejudice, this very basic character is played by Lydia Bennet.

The youngest of the Bennet girls and her mother’s favorite, Lydia is not unlike many a teenage girl. She likes dancing, flirting with the officers and basically having fun. While the accepted practice in the Regency era was that the younger daughters don’t come out in society until their older sister are married, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have bent the rules for their children.

Spoiled by her mother and ignored by her father, Lydia nearly ruins the reputation of her family and her elder sister’s chance of marrying well when she runs away with Mr. Wickham.  But Lydia does not care that she is living with a man without the benefit of marriage and Wickham is not exactly rushing her to the altar. Lydia only becomes Mrs. Wickham when Darcy agrees to pick up the tab.

 

While on the surface Lydia is appears to be the average teenage girl, she represents so much more. In running away with Wickham, Lydia not only nearly ruins her life, she also nearly ruins the lives of her family members. In a society where reputation was everything, one rumor, whether true or not, could kill the social status of a family. Lydia is a powerful character during Jane Austen’s time as she is during our own because she only thinks of herself and does not care about the consequences of her actions, especially when her actions affect others. If the reader only takes one thing away from the character of Lydia Bennet, is the message of using your brain and thinking of the possible consequences before acting on a thought.

To sum it up: While Lydia is not a central character, she is still an important character. Sometimes the character that ends up affecting the most change in the narrative is not the main character, but a side character whose actions have an effect on the arc of the main character. Though Lydia remains static as a character, the other characters are forced to become dynamic because of her actions. Lydia is also a standard character trope that has been seen time and again. In creating a standard character who does not change, but whose actions force others to change, Jane Austen created a character who is just as important to story as Elizabeth or Darcy.

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Writing

Throwback Thursday-Daydream Believers: The Monkees’ Story (2000)

For many of us growing up, one of the rites of passage was the boy band of the moment. In the late’s 60’s, the boy band of the moment that the then teenagers were going crazy for were The Monkees. Mickey Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones were the original made for television boy band.

In 2000, a biopic of their time in the spotlight aired. Daydream Believers:The Monkees’ Story, Jeff Geddis (Mike Nesmith), Aaron Lohr (Mikey Dolenz), L.B. Fisher (Peter Tork) and George Stanchev (Davy Jones) played the young men who were originally hired to play characters on a scripted television series, but then fought for the artistic control and respect that they craved.

For a TV movie, it’s not bad. The way I see it, is that it’s like in The Wizard Of Oz, when the curtain is pulled back and the wizard is revealed to be an ordinary man. This movie pulls back the curtain to reveal both the upsides of performing and the struggle of being artist when the business aspect of show business takes over.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Music, Television, Throwback Thursday, TV Review

Failure Is Merely A Part Of Life

I hate to say it, but we all fail once in a while. Whether is because of poor judgement, lack of knowledge or another reason, we all fail at least once.

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is on a website entitled Problogger. Run by Darren Rowse, a successful blogger who has found a way to earn a living as a blogger, he talks about anything and everything that has to do with blogging.

This week’s podcast was about how to overcome failure in six steps. The thing that struck me about not only the subject of the podcast, but the suggestions laid out, is that the steps don’t just apply to bloggers and blogging. They can be used by anyone for any aspect of their life.

Failure is hard. It’s depressing, it’s ego bruising and not a fun experience to say the least. But we all go through it and the old adage is true. What doesn’t kill us really does make us stronger.

One of the most comforting thing I’ve heard about failure came from Oprah Winfrey. A failure is merely a course correction. Of course it’s difficult, but sometimes it is necessary.

I highly recommend this particular episode to all of my readers and Problogger in general to anyone who has a blog or is considering starting a blog. The experience will be well worth it.

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Filed under Life, Writing

Movies Celebrating Anniversaries- The Graduate (1967), Annie Hall (1997) and A League Of Their Own (1992)

There are some movies that are, for lack of a better term, so forgettable, that you walk out of the theater almost immediately forgetting that you saw the film.

Then there are some films that are loved and cherished, that decades after their premiere, they are still being talked about. This year celebrates the anniversaries of three memorable and loved films: The Graduate (1967), celebrating its 50th anniversary, Annie Hall (1977), celebrating its 40th anniversary and A League Of Their Own (1992), celebrating it’s 25 year anniversary.

The Graduate (1967)
Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is a young man in his early 20’s just trying to figure life in general, as many of us do at that age. While dating Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross), he is sleeping with her mother, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft).

What makes this film brilliant is that Benjamin Braddock speaks to all 20 somethings who are just trying to figure out life in general. Included in the recipe for a film that stands the test of time is the immortal soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel and a narrative that would have never even seen the light of day ten years before. The Graduate represents a small, but important change in not just Hollywood, but the overall cultural shift that was slowly changing the world.

Annie Hall (1977)

Annie Hall is the romantic comedy. Ditzy Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) is dating neurotic Alvy Singer (Woody Allen). That is until they break up and Alvy is reminiscing about their relationship.

I love this movie for a number of reasons. It is one of New York City’s most iconic films. I also love that neither Annie or Alvy are the ideal romantic comedy leads and the ending is not the typical Hollywood/fairy tale ending. Instead of a glossed over, predictable narrative, Allen and his co-screenwriter, Marshall Brickman write about a real relationship and are not afraid to show the bumps in the road that sometimes occur in a romantic relationship.

A League Of Their Own (1992)
During World War II, while the men are away fighting the Axis powers, the woman occupy the roles the men left behind. Sisters Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty) join the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a baseball league made entirely up of female players. While the league gains fans and popularity, a rivalry erupts between the sisters.

A League Of Their Own originally hit theaters when I was a kid. I loved it 25 years ago and I still love it today. I love the quotable dialogue, I love the complicated and real female characters (which today are still not seen as often as they should be) and I love that these women paved the way, in their own small way for the success not just in sports, but in life for future generations of women. I also have a little bit of an obsession with music from the 1940’s, the soundtrack of this film makes me very happy.

The films above were meant to stand the test of time. Many films are forgettable, these films will live forever in the minds of fans and critics as films that will always be watched, talked about and cherished.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Movies, Music, New York City

Why I Re-Read The Tailors of Tomaszow: A Memoir of Polish Jews

This past weekend was Yom HaShoah.

While I live in the safety and security of The United States, sometimes I need a reminder how quickly democracy and freedom can spiral into prejudice and murder.

Yesterday, I finished reading The Tailors of Tomaszow: A Memoir of Polish Jew. Co-written by child survivor Rena Margulies Chernoff and her son Alan Chernoff, the book is a memoir based on the memories of Mrs. Chernoff’s all too brief childhood and the horrors she went through during the Holocaust.

The reason I re-read the book can best be described by the late Elie Wiesel:

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

The youngest of the survivors are in their 80’s and 90’s. Soon, only their words and memories, shared through others will keep the their murdered kin alive.

I re-read The Tailors of Tomaszow: A Memoir of Polish Jews so that the dead will never be forgotten.

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Filed under Books, History, Why I Re-Read

Prince Harry & Mental Illness

Mental illness, like any disease is immune to class, race, income or even level of fame.

Recently, Prince Harry opened up about the years of emotional numbness he went through after the death of his mother in the summer of 1997.

As much as I would like to say that his experience dealing mental illness is trivial compared to someone who has lived with it their entire life, I can’t. Mental illness is mental illness is mental illness. Whether it is due to the loss of parent that has not been emotionally dealt with or someone who has diagnosed depression and is being treated, neither is more important than the other.

What is important, is that his celebrity has opened the door just a little and started a conversation. We need to have this conversation and if this conversation starts with Prince Harry, I am happy to continue it.

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Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture Book Review

It’s no secret that many young girls are obsessed with all things pink, sparkly and generally princess-y. The question that many adults and many parents ask, is this obsession nature or nurture?

Journalist and writer Peggy Orenstein answers this question in her 2011 book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. To find the answer she is seeking, Ms. Orenstein not only writes about her own daughter, but about the cues and pressures from well-known companies such as American Girl, Disney and the world of child beauty pageants. She also talks about how the internet comes into play and the images that young girls see in various formats, whether they be in print on-screen or maybe, in their own homes.

What I truly appreciated about this book is how frank Ms. Orenstein is. Parenting is hard, but it is made harder by the very well executed marketing plans of companies that sells children’s toys and the mixed messages our children and our girls in particular are still receiving. But, she concludes, it is possible to counteract the in face-ness of the pink/sparkly/princess-y image that our girls are receiving and raise them to stand on their own two feet and think for themselves.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Fairy Tales, Feminism