Category Archives: History

Thoughts On The 20th Anniversary Of Titanic

On December 19th, Titanic turns 20.

Titanic is basically the story of a fictional upper class Juliet and a lower class Romeo set on the real ship. Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a poor artist who wins a ticket on the Titanic over a game of cards. Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is a socialite who is unhappily traveling with her mother and fiance back to America. Fate brings them together, but can fate and love keep them together as the ship sinks and issues of class and wealth get in the way of a happy ending?

I was a teenager when this movie hit theaters. Like many teenagers back then, I thought the movie was, well, perfect. There was romance, drama, class politics, beautiful period clothing, and on top of it all, one of the most infamous naval disasters in modern human history.  When I look back at the film through the eyes of an adult, the luster is slightly gone, but this film will always have a place in my heart.  While James Cameron is not the best screenwriter, the narrative and dialogue could be much worse. Of course, it helps that Leo and Kate’s on-screen chemistry (and off-screen BFF relationship) is indisputable.

Titanic is one of those movies that 20 years later, I still know by heart. There are some movies that will always mark certain times in our lives. Titanic will always be a reminder of my teenage years.

I think I may watch it again, not just for old time’s sake, but because it’s still a pretty good movie.

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Downton Abbey: The Exhibition Review

At first glance, Downton Abbey appears to be just another BPD (British Period Drama).

But it so much more than that. Set in an English aristocratic home in the early 20th century, the focus of Downton Abbey is the story of the Crawley family, led by the Earl and Countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) and their household staff.

Recently, Downton Abbey: The Exhibition opened.

The exhibit is sheer perfection. Containing costumes, exact replicas of  the sets, audio clips, video clips and so much more, the exhibit was made for the fans. It’s as if the creators of the exhibit were able to read our minds as to what would like to see and experience.

When a television show is as beloved as Downton Abbey is, an exhibit like this is akin to coming home. It is as if the visitor is a fly on the wall of the set. It is beautiful, it is enticing and worth every moment of my visit.

It is a must see.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is at 218 West 57th Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue until January 31st, 2018. 

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Pearl Harbor, The Day That Defined A Generation

Today is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. December 7th, 1941 was a day that not only defined the generation that lived through that day, but it also still defines us today, two generations after the attack. Pearl Harbor was not only America’s entry point into World War II, it would also become a symbol of the sacrifice and courage of all American soldiers during the war.

When I think of Pearl Harbor, I think of my grandfathers. The songs of Jewish immigrants, they joined their brothers in arms to protect America and democracy from the ravages of those who would twist democracy and freedom to their own needs.  While my grandfathers (as far I know) were not in Hawaii on that day, their sacrifice, as a generation for our freedom will never be forgotten. Especially the men who lose their lives that day and whose loved ones must fly across an ocean to visit their gravesite.

To these men who gave their lives, thank you is not enough. It will never be enough. We can only truly honor their memories by fighting for the ideals that America the great country that she is.

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The Shape Of Water Movie Review

The story of a romance between a human female and a non human or super human male is not new to readers or audiences.  This basic narrative has been rebooted many times over in many different ways for generations. The question is, can the writer or writers make their narrative stand out from similar narratives?

The new film, The Shape Of Water, takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute woman who works for a government facility in the janitorial department. She spends her time with her co-worker and friend (who talks enough for both of them),  Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her middle-aged bachelor neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins). One day, a new classified experiment arrives the facility under the control of Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Elisa and Zelda are told to keep their time in the laboratory short, but Elisa’s curiosity gets the best of her.

The experiment is an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones), who Mr. Strickland would like to kill and experiment on. But Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) has a conscious and a secret reason for keeping the creature alive. Can Elisa save this creature and how will that forever change them both?

Using a fairy tale, Beauty and The Beast motif, this film is one of my favorite in 2017. I loved the basic fairy tale narrative blended with life in the early 60’s. Both The Cold War and The Civil Rights Movement are so seamlessly blended into the plot that the audience forgets about the history lesson they are receiving. I would not be surprised if this film did well come awards season.

I recommend it.

The Shape Of Water is presently in theaters. 

 

 

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Thoughts On The 20th Anniversary of Anastasia

*Warning: this post contains spoilers read at your own risk.

On November 21st, 1997, the animated film Anastasia hit theaters.

Loosely based on the myth that Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia somehow survived the murder of her family in 1918, Anya (voiced by Meg Ryan) is an orphan who wants nothing more to find her family. Two con men, Dimitri (voiced by John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer) convince her that she is Anastasia. Unbeknownst to Anya, there is a reward for the safe return of the grand duchess to her grandmother, The Dowager Empress Marie (voiced by Angela Lansbury). Neither Dimitri or Vladimir had any plans of splitting the reward with Anya, if she is believed to be Anastasia.

While this is happening, Rasputin (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) has risen from the dead and is eager to finish what he started ten years ago.

I look at this film, as I do its 1956 predecessor starring Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman, as a what if version of history. Especially in regards to the fact that Anastasia and Dimitri lived happily ever after. Marriages between commoners and royalty did not happen in that period.

Granted, the remains of  all of the Romanovs were not found and made saints of the Russian Orthodox Church until after this film came out. This left wiggle room for the screenwriters to use the myth of the surviving Anastasia as the skeleton of the narrative.

As a narrative loosely based on a myth, it’s a reasonably good film. But to hold it up as historical fact requires a bit too much for me.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus Book Review

A circus is supposed to be entertaining. The political arena, especially when it comes to Presidential elections is not entertaining.

Earlier this year, writer Matt Taibbi published Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus. Following the 2016 Presidential election from the moment that the candidates announced that they were running up until the moment that the election was called in favor or Donald Trump, Mr. Taibbi is writing on the moment, real-time essays about the mess, the chaos and yes, the circus like atmosphere that was the 2016 election.

While this book is sarcastic and funny, it is also quite scary. It is scary because it shows how far we, as a country, are from the political and social ideals that are cornerstone of our democracy.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

 

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The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

A Christmas Carol is the progenitor of every Christmas story has been published since 1843.  The Charles Dickens novel has not only become synonymous with the holiday, but also with the idea of being kind to our fellow mortals.

The new film, The Man Who Invented Christmas, stars Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens. With the recent success of Oliver Twist,  Dickens is under pressure to write his next novel. But with the creative well running dry and his bank account running equally as dry, he has to do something. Soon the idea for his next novel will start flowing, but so will the tension with his wife, Kate  (Morfydd Clark) and his father, John (Jonathan Price). He must also contend with the characters that are talking to him, including the man who will soon be known to the world as Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) and face his own past.

 

As a writer, it is always fascinating to see how other writers go on their creative journey to create their work. As an audience member, for me at least, it is fascinating to watch how a screenwriter can expand not just upon the myth, but on the everyday human struggles of their characters, especially ones that are as well known as Charles Dickens.

I recommend it.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is presently in theaters. 

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Thoughts On The Anniversary Of the Assassination of JFK

Today is the 54th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

For many, he is emblematic of his era. Charismatic, charming, handsome and well spoken, he accomplished a lot in this short three years in office.  He is remembered as the President who would take the first step in easing the tensions created by The Cold War and paved the way for his predecessors to ensure that African-Americans had the same rights as their Caucasian peers.

He was also the first Catholic President, a direct descendant of Irish immigrants, the youngest President to date and appeared to be a loving and loyal family man.

While he was imperfect as both a man and a President (Marilyn Monroe was rumored to be one of his many mistresses), today, we look back on the early 60’s with a view covered by rose-colored glasses. Especially considering the man who presently holds the office.

History is always seen in hindsight. I believe that we remember JFK as one of our greatest Presidents not only because he was taken from us too soon, but also for what he represented and what he still represents.

RIP.

 

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Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America Book Review

America woke up on November 9th, 2016. When Donald Trump won the Presidential election, it was a shock to us all. It was a reminder that freedom and democracy must be fought for. We cannot sit back and hope we will wake up tomorrow with the same rights as we did today.

The new book Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America, edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding  is a collection of essays by prominent female journalists and activists who are using their voices and their podiums to speak of the wrongs that Trump is doing to America and her citizens. The list of contributors the book include Rebecca Solnit, Cheryl Strayed and Nicole Chung.

I loved this book. The contributors all write about a variety of experiences, but their message is the same. We have to resist, there is no other choice in matter. If we don’t, our children and grandchildren will ask us questions we will be able to answer.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Thoughts On the 28th Anniversary Of The Little Mermaid

Friday was the 28th anniversary of the release of The Little Mermaid.

Loosely (and I mean very loosely) based on the story of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid the story of Ariel. Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) is 16 and the youngest daughter of the King Triton (voiced by Kenneth Mars). Rebellious and headstrong (as many teenage girls are), Ariel falls in love with a human prince, Eric (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes). Making a deal with the sea witch, Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll), Ariel trades her voice and her tail for legs to hopefully be with Eric. But is it worth the trade-off and will she have her happy ending?

I have mixed feelings about this movie. On one hand, Ariel is is Disney’s OG Ginger. As a redhead, especially as a redhead of a certain generation, Ariel will always have a place in my heart. But that does not mean that I have issues with the character and the narrative.

  1. Ariel is a size 2. Most of us are not a size 2.
  2. How does she not have third degree sunburns? One of the cardinal rules of being a redhead is that sunscreen is a mandatory part of our morning routine.
  3. She willingly gives up her voice and her legs (i.e. her identity) for a man who she barely knows. Not exactly the message that we should be imparting to our daughters.
  4. When push comes to shove (i.e. Ursula tries to get in the way of Ariel and Eric’s happy ending), it is Eric that saves the day.
  5. Ariel wears a pink dress. I don’t know about other redheads, but it’s not a color that exists in my wardrobe.
  6. Ursula is old and fat. Ariel is young and skinny. Therefore, young and thin is good. Old and fat is bad.

Despite my concerns with this movie, The Little Mermaid will always have a place in my heart. I can’t believe it’s been 28 years.

 

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