Stutz Movie Review

Talk therapy is one of the most common forms of working through mental illness. Speaking to a therapist allows one to air their grievances (so to speak) in an emotionally healthy manner.

The new Netflix documentary Stutz is a conversation between actor Jonah Hill and his psychiatrist, Phil Stutz. Over the course of 136 minutes, both men spill their guts (figuratively speaking). Hill talks about being known as a plus-sized actor and the downside of fame. Stutz delves into his past and how his own trauma has gotten him to this point in his life.

This film is fantastic. I loved the honesty of both men. Filmed in mostly black and white, it speaks to the power of the importance of respecting mental health. As someone who has been grappling with it for many years, I related to Hill and his struggles. I also appreciated Stutz’s approach to working with his patients and helping them to achieve their goals.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Stutz is available for streaming on Netflix.

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The Light We Carry Book Review

It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind and many headlines coming from the evening news. Before we know it, the stress and negativity start to creep in and our outlook starts to change for the worse.

Michelle Obama‘s new book, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, was published this month. While reflecting on her own life and challenges, the former First Lady asks big questions that do not have an easy answers. In doing so, she talks about the people and skills that have helped her to get through the various obstacles that have stood in her way. Building on a life of experience, she encourages the reader to tackle the stumbling blocks in their own lives and find their happiness.

This is classic Michelle Obama: funny, down-to-earth, honest, and humble.

Though she does not speak directly about mental health, there are aspects of the book that can help with this illness in its various forms. Instead of bullshitting or providing pie-in-the-sky answers, her approach is simple and relatable. As someone who has been living with mental illness for years, I appreciated her outlook. It is refreshing in a world that could easily bring us down.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Light We Carry is available wherever books are sold.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Movie Review

When Chadwick Boseman passed away two years ago, it was more than the loss of an actor whose gifts were once in a generation. His portrayal of T’Challa/Black Panther in the original Black Panther film was groundbreaking and universally applauded.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was released in theaters this past weekend. It takes place a half dozen years after the first movie ended. It starts with T’Challa’s off-screen death from an unknown illness. The loss of both the King and protector leaves Wakanda in a state of mourning. While his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) steps up to lead the nation and deal with pressure from the outside, her daughter Shuri (Letitia Wright) tries to pretend that everything is fine.

Then a new threat emerges. Namor (Tenoch Huerta) is the king of an underwater Indigenous people. His ancestors were nearly exterminated by Spanish colonizers. Like the Wakandans, vibranium is part and parcel of their culture. Namor is threatening to wage war against the surface world. The only way to appease him is to bring him a young wunderkind scientist, Riri Williams/Ironheart (Dominique Thorne).

Ramonda and Shuri have a tough decision ahead. Do they sentence this young girl to death or do they work with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and M’Baku (Winston Duke) to stop Namor?

Wow. Like its predecessor, the film balances action, emotion, and timely social issues. This is Wright’s film. She carries it with everything she has. I was floored by her abilities as a performer. In addition to dealing with the grief (and the connected mental health issues) that come with losing a loved one, Shuri must protect her country.

As in Black Panther, it is the women who are in leadership roles. Each is human and powerful in her own right. She is also an important part of the narrative and is dealing with the loss of T’Challa in her own way.

My only issue is that it was a little long.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. It is one of my favorite movies of the year.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is presently in theaters.

P.S. As usual, stay for the mid-scene credits. It will make you cry.

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My Two Elaines: Learning Coping and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Book Review

To say that it is difficult to lose a loved one to Alzheimer’s is an understatement. The slow destruction of their mind is painful beyond words. It is an experience that I know all too well.

The new memoir, My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, by Martin J. Schreiber and Cathy Breitenbucher, was published in June. Schreiber was Governor of Wisconsin in the late 1970s. He was also the caregiver of his late wife, Elaine. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the early 2000s, he spent the last 18 years taking care of her.

The book tells the story of her disease and their life together. Meeting in high school, they married young and had four children. Martin would eventually get into politics while Elaine took on the traditional roles of wife and mother. She was also his biggest cheerleader and actively campaigned for him.

When it became apparent that something was off, Martin did everything he could to support her.

The best way to describe the book is part love story, part memoir, and part advice column. In between the story of their life together is guidance and information on how to deal with slow and painful mental decline.

What made the narrative stick for me were two distinct elements. The first is reading Elaine’s own words. The second is Martin’s perspective as the male caregiver. Normally, this role is fulfilled by a female, whether she is his wife, family member, or an aide who has been hired out from an agency.

The most important part for me (as a family member of someone who has the illness), is how important mental health is for the person who is taking care of their loved one. Taking time for themselves provides a much needed break from the stress that comes with this experience.

In providing his perspective, he shows that this experience is universal, regardless of gender. It also shows how powerful love can be, even during challenging times.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver is available wherever books are sold.

We Send Our Kids to School to Learn, Not to Die

When I was younger and in school, the purpose of the experience was to receive an education. It was not to be target practice for someone who had no business having access to firearms.

On Tuesday, a young man walked into a high school in St. Louis and started shooting. Two lives were lost, a teacher and a fifteen-year-old student. The shooter was killed by police.

The family of this boy claims that they did everything when it came to his mental health problems.

The point, as I see it, has once more been proven. Did this boy have a mental illness? The evidence, as we have it so far, points to yes. However, that does not preclude the fact that this tragedy and others of its ilk are and were preventable.

I would love to know why a civilian needs access to an AR-15. This is why we need common-sense gun control laws. If this child has not been able to get his hands on that weapon, then both of his victims would still be alive.

May their memories be a blessing. Z”L.

P.S. The girl who was killed was less than a month away from her 16th birthday. For anyone who thinks that we do not need to legislate against gun violence should consider this fact before stating that there is no need for measures of this kind.

The Artist’s Way Book Review

Creativity is like a ball of energy. Without a vessel/tool to harness it or shape it, it just hangs there.

The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, was originally published in 1992. The 25th-anniversary edition was published in 2016. In the book, Cameron takes a unique approach to be creative. Using a variety of techniques (such as The Morning Pages and Artist Dates) she encourages her readers to dig deep and discover what is holding them back. She also includes exercises, activities, and prompts in each chapter, giving the reader further opportunities to pull out what is metaphorically inside of them.

I was shocked that I had never heard of this book until a friend told me about it recently. Learning about Cameron’s methods was almost akin to picking up a mental health-related self-help book. It’s not just about facing what is blocking us as artists, it is what is holding us back in life as well.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Artist’s Way is available wherever books are sold.

Kanye West’s Anti-Semitic Comment Should Disturb All of Us

The Holocaust did not start with concentration camps, gas chambers, ghettos, and mass killings. It started with words, lies, and false accusations.

Kanye West is one of the most respected rappers/musicians in the industry. I’m not a fan, but he is considered by many to be a genius wordsmith.

He is also an anti-semite. A few days ago, West stated that he would go on “Death Con 3” on Jews. His excuse was the following:

 “The funny thing is that I actually can’t be antisemitic because black people are actually Jew[s]”

He also wore a shirt to a fashion event that said “White Lives Matter”.

And as expected, the cherry on top is the usual response from the right.

I don’t know if this is due to his mental health issues or if this is his way of grabbing the spotlight. If it is due to mental illness, then he should seek out help if he has not already done so. If he just wants attention, this is not the way to go about it.

While promoting her new film, Halloween Ends, actress Jamie Lee Curtis (whose father is the late Jewish actor Tony Curtis), responded to West’s comments on The Today Show.

The fact is that words matter. They can hurt and they can kill. Perhaps West should consider that before opening his mouth.

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P.S. If West thinks that pretending to be a right-wing nut will save him from the racists, he has another thing coming.

Today is World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day.

There has been a lot said about mental illness.

Instead of retreading what has been said, I just want to give it a shoutout to anyone living with this debilitating illness. Regardless of whether or not you were able to get out of bed this morning, I want you to know that you are not alone. You can get through this. I know it’s a slog, but it’s not impossible.

I believe in you.

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Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother Book Review

There is no bond as important as a mother with her children.

When the late Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997, she left behind two young men who were forever changed. The new biography, Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother, by James Patterson, was published last month. It tells the story of Diana and her sons as human beings, not just celebrities or royals who live in a gilded cage.

While ensuring that both of her boys know what their responsibilities and futures will be like, she also gave them the opportunity to be ordinary kids. After her untimely passing, they grow up (with the usual and unusual hurdles due to the family they were born into) into responsible men, husbands, and fathers who continue Diana’s legacy.

What struck me was that Diana learned how to work within the system while rebelling against a way of life that may seem archaic to some. Her love for her sons, specifically when her marriage to Prince Charles (now King Charles III) was falling apart, was evident from the word go. Even when her own mental health issues weighed heavily on her, her boys still came first.

Choosing to live and parent as she did, she set up William and Harry to become empathetic and understanding of the idea that not everyone lives like they do. In doing so, she set the English monarchy on a path that allows tradition and modernity to exist concurrently.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother is available wherever books are sold.

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American Morning is a Must-See Short Film

School shootings have unfortunately become a standard headline in America these days.

American Morning, is a short film written, starring, and produced by Stephen Dexter. It is the story of Connor Mathis, a music teacher who survived a school shooting and was able to save all but one of his students. Two years after the fact, Connor is living with his father (played by Richard Schiff) and still reeling from the consequences of his actions. Plagued by nightmares and grief, he decides to make a statement when he sees that those in power are doing nothing.

My first reaction was wow. The mental health aspects of living through an event of this nature are so in your face that it is impossible to ignore. The choice he makes (which I will not give away, just watch to the end), speaks to the helplessness that I think many of us feel.

If you are not heartbroken and blown away by this short film, then I don’t know what to say.

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