Monthly Archives: November 2021

Thoughts on Hanukkah in 2021

History is more than a series of dry events written in a book. If we are able to understand what our predecessors have gone through, then perhaps we will finally learn from their actions.

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah.

One of the things that strikes me this year is that it feels more relevant than ever. With antisemitism on the rise, it’s not difficult to see the parallels between what we are going through in 2021 and the Maccabee’s fight for religious freedom. As the United States is potentially stumbling into autocracy and away from democracy and religious pluralism, this story is more than important than ever.

If you celebrate, wherever you are, have a Happy Hanukkah.

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Filed under History, Judaism, Music, Politics

The Eternals Movie Review

*This review is strictly based on the movie as I have never read the comic books.

It would be easy to categorize a superhero movie based on a comic book as all action and no heart. But without that heart, it is nothing but a series of fights between the heroes and the villains.

The Eternals hit theaters a few weeks ago. This latest film adaptation from Marvel Comics tells the story of a group of otherwordly beings whose job it is to protect and nuture humanity. The big bad are deviants, creatures who are not selective about who and what they kill. After thousands of years, these alien superheroes have blended into the world around them, looking no different than you or I.

When their leader, Ajak (Salma Hayek) is killed by a deviant, Sersi (Gemma Chan) takes her place and does her best to bring the team back together. But when the secret about the true nature of their mission is revealed, it creates conflict between Sersi, Ikarus (Richard Madden), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), and the rest of the Eternals.

The film clocks in about 2 1/2 hours. Thankfully, it does not feel that long. What I think makes it well done is that the narrative is not just about physical entaglments between the antagonists and the protaganists. There is heart, there is humor, and the message about what it is to be human is threaded throughout the story.

Much has been naturally made about the diversity of the cast. Personally, I think it’s a long time coming. Though I loved Avengers: Endgame, the reality is that the majority of the lead characters are white and male. One could argue that the one scene that all of the female superheroes come together is merely lip service instead of naturally giving these women the spotlight beyond the traditional female narratives.

Including an LGBTQ character, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), and a deaf character, Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), was a nice addition. It proved that this world can be open to a wider range of types of people, if only given the chance.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Eternals is presently in theaters.

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Filed under Feminism, Movie Review, Movies

The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters’ Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory Book Review

When one nation or people invades another, the decision to join the resistance is not one to be taken lightly. Knowing that you are constantly at death’s door, it requires a certain kind of bravery that could also be deemed as foolishness.

The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters’ Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory, by Rox­ane van Iperen, was published in August. The book tells the story of two Dutch Jewish sisters, Janny Brilleslijper and Lien Brilleslijper. Less than a year after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the lives of the sisters, their family, and every other Jew in the country begins to change for the worst. They have two options. They can either stay where they are and wait for the other shoe to drop. The other choice is to go into hiding and hope that they will all be alive at the end of the war.

The solution is to go into hiding in the woods. Known as “The High Nest“, the property is a safe house for the family, artists, and other resistance fighters. Just as it seems that the Allies are on the verge of taking back Europe, they are betrayed and sent to Auschwitz. Forced onto the train with them is Anne Frank and her family. As the two sets of siblings try to survive, Janny and Lien connect with Anne and her older sister, Margot. Waiting for liberation will test the sisters in every way possible, forcing them to rely on each other and an inner strength that may be the only thing keeping them alive.

When we talk about resistance, the conversation frequently revolves around men. Women are not given their due or an opportunity to tell the story. Having never heard of Janny and Lien Brilleslijper, it was another reminder of how badass Jewish women are. My problem with the book is that I was not feeling the danger and the tension of the narrative. I should have felt the stress and anxiety of what the characters were going through. Ultimately, I didn’t, which is highly dissapointing.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Judaism

In Trump’s Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP Book Review

Just as in life, there are lessons to be learned in politics. Both the 2016 Presidential election and the 2020 Presidential election, were if nothing else, an eye-opening experience.

In Trump’s Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP, by David M. Drucker, was published last month. With you know who finally out of power (thank G-d), the question among members of the GOP is who will replace him? Will it be someone who is a die-hard and will potentially repeat the last four years? Or will it be another person who is a little more particular about the policy decisions they make?

If nothing else, this is a playbook for the 2022 Midterm elections, the 2024 Presidential election, and beyond. This book should be a must-read for every Democrat, both on the individual level and at the highest levels of power. If they are to retain control of both branches of Congress and the White House, they must not only know the other side inside out, but come together. Only then will the rule of law and some version of decency return to this nation.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Politics

Hawkeye Review

*I know nothing of the content of the original comic book that Hawkeye is based on. This review is strictly based on the television series.

After a long-running movie or television series has run its course, it is not surprising if fans need a break. If the narrative is to continue, it is important that the writer(s) and creative teams find new plots that they might not have considered before.

Earlier this week, the MCU/DisneyPlus, Hawkeye premiered. In the opening scene, young Kate Bishop (Clara Stack) is witness to the destruction of New York City during the first Avengers movie. Losing both her home and her beloved father, Derek (Brian d’Arcy James) will forever change her life. We then flash forward to the college-age Kate (Hailee Steinfeld). She returns for winter break after accidentally destroying a building on campus and is unhappy that her mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) is engaged to Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton).

Meanwhile, Hawkeye/Clint Black (Jeremy Renner) is in the city with his kids to enjoy the Christmas season. He hopes that his only interaction with his superhero past is a dreadful musical adaptation. It’s supposed to be an ordinary family vacation. But fate, his past, and Kate Bishop force him to pick up his bow and arrow once more.

So far, only the first two episodes have been released. What I have seen so far, I like. There is a nice balance of action and comedy. Clint’s reluctance to become Hawkeye again is the yin to the yang of Kate’s eagerness to show that she can be as badass as he is. The emotional hook is not the physical aspect of the story, but how both Kate and Clint have to deal with the issues in their personal lives.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Hawkeye is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Margaret

*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. Once again, I was juggling too many writing projects.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie (or any adaptation). 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. Love is a wonderful thing, but it can also go wrong.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Margaret is introduced to the audience as Hero‘s lady in waiting. Unlike her proper mistress, Margaret is always down for a good joke, even if it pushes boundaries. She is also known for her honesty, which draws her into the unwitting plan cooked up by Don John. Taking advantage of her feelings for Borachio (Don John’s right-hand man), she is used to convince Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero is cheating on her fiance.

To sum it up: While we laugh with Margaret, we also know that she has been used. Though she has done nothing wrong, she is an unwitting accomplice in nearly ruining Hero’s reputation. Love has not gone her way. But still, she walks away with a smile on her face and the respect of her employer.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

This will be my last Character Review post for Much Ado About Nothing. Come back next week to find out which group of characters I will be reviewing next.

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Flashback Friday: So You Think You Can Dance (2005-Present)

Dancing, like all art, requires skills, talent, and drive to succeed. It also helps when reality television comes calling.

So You Think You Can Dance has been on the air since 2005. A “real” version of The Big Leap, dancers from all genres compete in a reality competition show to become “America’s favorite dancer”. Once the participants are chosen, they perform both solo and group pieces that go beyond their dancing bubble. Judged by respected and well-known professional dancers, one contestant is eliminated every week until the winner is announced.

I can certainly appreciate the effort it takes to get to this level. This is not the type of activity that can be phoned in. But at the same time, it is a reality show. Once again I have to question if what we are watching is authentic or crafted to bring in as many eyeballs as possible.

Do I reccomend it? Maybe.

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Justice Served: Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers Found Guilty

Martin Luther King Jr. once said the following about justice:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”

Yesterday, America made a giant step forward in reaching the ideals set up by her founders. The men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty. I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like I can breathe again. If the jury had gone in the other direction, I can only imagine what the response would have been like.

While we cannot undo what has happened, we can do the right thing going forward. The message is clear: acts of hate will not be tolerated. Those who perpetrate such actions will be caught and have their day in court.

Rest in power, Ahmaud. You will never be forgotten.

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Throwback Thursday: Black Swan (2010)

Reaching the mountain top of our careers requires hard work, drive, and sacrifice. But the question begs, how much sacrifice is needed to get to that peak?

In the 2010 film, Black Swan, Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a ballet dancer living and working in New York City. Dance is everything to her, she has no life outside of it. After her company’s former prima ballerina Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) is pushed out of the company, the door opens for Nina to play the title role in The Black Swan. Pushed by her former ballet dancer mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), and her artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) to succeed, Nina pushes herself to breaking point. Adding to the pressure is competition from the newest member of the company, Lily (Mila Kunis). Will Nina get to play the part and if she does, what will it cost her?

This film is absolutely fantastic. The performances are compelling and powerful. The duress that Nina is under radiates from the screen. I felt the urge to pull Nina out of the film, hug her, and tell her that everything will be fine, regardless of the outcome. The screenplay has a delicious Alfred Hitchcock undertone, grabbing the audience by the throat and refusing to let go until the screen go black.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Movie Review, Movies, New York City, Throwback Thursday

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wherever you are tonight and whomever you are with, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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-Writergurlny

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