80 for Brady Movie Review

There is a stereotype about a woman of a certain age. She has (hopefully) lived a full life and is taking full advantage of what her golden years have to offer. Some women are content to sit back and relax. Others see further adventures on the horizon.

The new movie, 80 for Brady, is based on the true story of four older women who are Tom Brady and New England Patriots superfans. Maura (Rita Moreno), Betty (Sally Field), Trish (Jane Fonda), and Lou (Lily Tomlin) are the best of friends. They win four tickets to the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston and have a weekend that they will never forget.

This movie is adorable. It is entertaining, and funny, and shows the power of friendship. It also proves once more that females who are long past their youth are just as vibrant, spirited, and open to new ideas as their younger counterparts.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

80 for Brady is currently in theaters.

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Heretic: A Memoir Book Review

The path from childhood to adulthood is a rocky one. Along the way, we make decisions that can affect the rest of our lives. One of these choices is how to live our lives. If our adult selves are different than the rest of our family/community, do we have to courage to go our own way? Or do we put on a mask to feel included and loved?

Heretic: A Memoir, by Jeanna Kadlec, was published last fall. Raised in an Evangelical Christian family, Kadlec grew up in a world in which the rules were unbreakable. Everything revolved around their faith. Because she was a girl, Kadlec was expected to be quiet, and obedient, and act as a female was supposed to act.

But Jeanna Kadlec was not one to follow the rules. Her memoir is not just her story of finding herself. It is the revelation how of Evangelicalism has seeped into every aspect of American culture, regardless of whether it is wanted or needed. She also talks about how women are perceived and treated, and how those who are queer are seen.

This book is amazing. Kadlec’s journey is raw, emotional, troubling, and hopeful at the same time. The only way to solve a problem is to first identify it. In sharing her tale, she puts a name and a face on an issue that many refuse to see.

There is nothing wrong with religion, there are many benefits to believing in a higher being and coming together to pray to that deity. The difficulty comes when one group decides/believes that they have the right to tell the rest of us what to think.

I admire the author. She chose to be true to herself instead of staying in her marriage and pretending to be heterosexual. Though it was the road less traveled, it was the one that felt right to her. If only we could all have the courage to do the same.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Heretic: A Memoir is available wherever books are sold.

Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption Identity and the Meaning of Family Book Review

On its surface, adoption is a wonderful thing. It gives children without a home a family and it allows adults to become parents or to add to their brood. But for all the good it does, it can have unforeseen side effects.

Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity, and the Meaning of Family, by Erika Sachiko was published in October. The memoir is the story of two young ladies who were born in Vietnam at the end of the 1990s. Hà and Loan are twins. Born to a mother who could not take care of them, they were put in an orphanage. Hà was taken in and raised by a maternal aunt and her long-time partner. Loan was renamed Isabella and adopted by an American couple along with another girl they renamed Olivia.

Their lives were as different as night and day. Hà’s early years were happy., but without the material advantages of Isabella’s suburban upbringing. When Isabella’s adoptive mother found out that her daughter had a twin, she set out to reunite the girls.

I wanted to like this book. It was a compelling narrative. I liked how the author sketched the journey of her subjects. But it was a little slow and it took longer than expected to finish it.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

RIP Leslie Jordan

If you knew that your life was to end tomorrow, who would you call? What would you do?

Leslie Jordan died earlier today in a car accident. He was 67. He is best remembered for playing Beverly Leslie, Karen Walker‘s (Megan Mullally) frenemy on Will and Grace.

From this fan’s perspective, Jordan was one of the most beloved recurring actors in the how. His bits with Mullally are nothing short of perfect.

During the early days of the pandemic, his Instagram account was one of the brighter spots in what was a dark and confusing time.

May his memory be a blessing. Z”l.

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Thoughts On Rosh Hashanah 2022

It’s amazing how busy the day gets. Work, writing, errands, etc. Before I know it, it is time to go to bed.

Rosh Hashanah starts this coming Sunday evening. For two days, Jews around the world will temporarily put their daily schedule on hold and ask our creator to forgive our sins and mistakes from the previous year.

For my part, I am looking forward to the holiday. It will be the break I have been looking for. This time of year is the busy season for my industry. For the last six weeks or so, I have been putting in long hours that have thoroughly put me through my paces. This time away from work and the very long to-do list is just what the doctor ordered.

To everyone celebrating, have a sweet and happy new year.

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Anne Heche and the Impermanence of Life

Life, as we all know, does not last forever. If we are lucky, we will be around until our golden years. But not everyone has that opportunity.

Last week, actress Anne Heche died in the aftermath of a car crash. After lingering in a coma for several days, she was taken off life support and declared brain dead. She was only 53.

As someone who has been living with mental illness for a long time, I am reminded daily that we only have one chance to go around the sun. When, how, and where we leave this Earth is unknown. We can only live as best we can.

I wish I could say that Heche’s unexpected passing gave me the impetus to finally drop all of my emotional baggage and give it the proverbial middle finger. But I know it won’t. The only thing I can do is deal with the cards I’ve been dealt.

May Heche’s memory be a blessing. Z”L.

Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings Book Review

“Normal” is relative. What is every day to one person is out completely out of the ordinary for another.

To say that Chrysta Bilton‘s childhood was anything but ordinary is an understatement. Raised in and around Los Angeles, her story is told in the new memoir, Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings. It was published earlier this month.

In the early 1980s, her mother, Debra was out of the closet and wanted to be a mother. Other than getting married to a man and making a baby the old-fashioned way, her options were limited. She would have to go to a sperm bank. While getting her hair done one day, Debra met Jeffrey Harrison. He was everything she wanted the father of her children to be.

Through Debra tried to create a traditional family structure for both Chrysta and her younger sister, it was anything but. She had a series of partners, addiction issues, and tried to support her daughters via get-rich-quick schemes.

When Chrysta finally discovered the truth about her parentage and her many half-siblings, she was forced to face a reality that would force her to shift her worldview.

This book is amazing. Bilton’s story is complicated, emotional, difficult at times, and shows the truth about what it is to have a family. What I found inspiring is that Bilton somehow came out of this extraordinary childhood with a resolve and a strength that some might not have developed at all.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings is available wherever books are sold.

Persuasion Movie Review

Life doesn’t always give us second chances. There are some opportunities that are firmly in the past. Then there are others that do come again. We can either let it slip through our fingers or go for it.

The new adaptation of the Jane Austen novel of Persuasion was released last week on Netflix.

Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) gave up the love of her life eight years ago. The daughter of a minor aristocratic family, she was convinced that Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis), a poor sailor was not good enough for her. Now in her late twenties, Anne is still single and pining for what could have been. Frederick has returned to her circle. He is now wealthy, a respected war hero, and a catch, according to the eligible young ladies.

Will they be able to make peace with the past and have the life they were meant to have, or will they once more go their separate ways?

This version is not all bad (well, it’s mostly bad). I loved the color-blind casting. The best performances in the film came by way of Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter Elliot and Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot. Johnson’s accent was not bad and she had decent chemistry with Jarvis.

The main problem is the lack of tension. What makes the narrative is the emotional wall between Anne and Frederick that slowly crumbles over the course of the narrative. That wall came down a little too quickly for my taste. The other problem is that it was turned into a rom-com (which it is not) and the use of modern slang. By the time we get to the letter, the buildup that would normally be there is a pittance of what it should be.

While I understand that the filmmakers wanted to make it palatable to non-Austen fans, they stripped away too much of the original text. This Anne Elliot is closer to Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse. Personality-wise, Anne is a complete 180 from both Elizabeth and Emma. I admire Elizabeth and I get a chuckle from Emma, but Anne I get.

If I were to rank the various adaptations and Austen-adjacent filmed IPs, this Persuasion would be second to the bottom of the list. The only one that is worse is Austenland.

Do I recommend it? Not really. Just stick to either the 95 or 07 version. Trust me, you are not missing much. I would even go as far as to say that this is one of the worst films I have seen this year.

Persuasion is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. The anniversary of Austen’s passing was yesterday. She would be spinning in her grave if she saw this movie.

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels Book Review

When life throws shit our way, we often turn to our favorite books or movies. It is the predictability in a sea of chaos that may be the one thing that gets us through the emotional turbulence.

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels, by Rachel Cohen, was published last year. About a decade ago, Cohen was going through tough times. Her father was on the verge of dying of cancer and she was near the end of her first pregnancy. Needing something to provide a source of comfort, she turned to Jane Austen.

In this memoir, Cohen weaves her story with Austen’s while exploring the emotions and narratives within the novels. She writes about dealing with grief, loss, change, and watching your children grow up.

I really enjoyed this book. While reading it, I was reminded why after more than 200 years, Austen is still beloved as an author. The experiences of the characters are thoroughly human. The feelings are ones we can all relate to. If I were to make a list of books for newbie Austen readers, this one would be on the list. There is just enough detail to hook the reader, without going deep into the nitty-gritty details that only a longtime Janeite would understand.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels is available wherever books are sold.

Summerland Movie Review

Sometimes, life can throw changes our way. We may not initially like that change, but we may end up surprised by the results.

Summerland (2020) is a BPD that takes place on the coast of England during World War II. Alice (played by Gemma Arterton as a younger woman and Penelope Wilton as the older Alice decades later) is a prickly writer who lives alone. She does not care for company and is seen as an oddity by her neighbors.

As the war rages on, children are being evacuated from the cities to the country. Frank (Lucas Bond) is a young boy who needs a temporary home. Begrudgingly, Alice takes him in. As they start to grow on one another, we flash back to Alice’s past and her relationship with Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

It’s a really sweet story about love, acceptance, and opening your heart to someone whom you never expected to. The casting is top-notch and the film is entirely watchable. It is also a reminder that love is love is love, regardless of gender or sexual identity.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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