Category Archives: New York City

The Farewell Movie Review

The best stories are universal. Regardless of the time it is set in, the place it is set in or the culture that it is set in, these stories are timeless and speak to all of us.

Writer/director Lulu Wang’s new semi-autobiographical film, The Farewell, is set in China and New York City. Billi (Awkwafina) was born in China and raised in New York City. When her beloved grandmother, known as Nai Nai, is diagnosed with cancer with only months to live, the family decides to keep it from her. Under the pretense of a fake wedding, the family comes together in China.

But Billi is troubled by the lie. She must decide if she will be the one to spill the beans or go along with the scheme.

This movie is one of the best films of 2019. Up to this point, Awkwafina has built her career on comedic roles in films such as Ocean’s Eight and Crazy Rich Asians. In this film, she plays a young woman who is dealing with an emotionally tough decision. The humor comes from the narrative, not from broad jokes or an outrageous character. In playing this toned down character, Awkwafina proves that her acting abilities go way beyond comedy.

The thing that stood out to me about The Farewell is that anyone can relate to these characters and their story. At some point, our parents and grandparents reach that point in their lives when their health is not what it was. It is then up to the younger generations to make decisions, which are frequently never easy and rife with challenges.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Farewell is presently in theaters.

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Filed under Movie Review, Movies, New York City

Law & Order: SVU Character Review: Olivia Benson

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

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 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

I know that it is sounds cliche, but what does not kill you makes you stronger. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, this concept is personified by Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). Conceived by rape, Benson was raised by an alcoholic single mother who abused her. As a police officer, she is sympathetic to the victims and hard as nails on the accused because of her past. She is also the yin to Elliot Stabler’s (Chris Meloni) yang, her first partner. Their good cop, bad cop chemistry was one of the keys to their success in catching the perpertrators.

But Benson has also had a few lumps along the way. William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber) is obsessed with her. He kidnaps her, tortures and nearly rapes her, but Benson is able to undo her bonds and defend herself. She also again nearly raped while undercover and was the unofficial foster mother of several children before adopting her son.

Like many women, Benson is delicately balancing motherhood and work. In her position as Lieutenant, she is often akin to a mother bear. She has to ensure that her squad does their jobs while occasionally dolling out tough love.

To sum it up: Olivia Benson has been through the ringer several times. While others might have crumbled under the emotional weight of the same experiences, Benson came out harder and stronger. Though she still bears the scars, she does not let them stop her.

As a character, Benson is an inspiration. In spite of what she has gone through, she continues to be strong for herself, her son and her squad. It is that strength had kept the SVU fanbase in raptures for twenty years and hopefully for many years to come.

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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, New York City, Television

Shame on You, Rand Paul

When the volunteers and first responders ran toward the still smoldering rubble that was the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001, they were not thinking of the compensation they would later be receiving from the government or the diseases that they would be dying from. They only though of finding survivors and recovering the remains of those who did not survive.

This year is the 18th anniversary of the attack. Approximately 90,000 Americans put their lives on hold to help with the rescue and recovery effort. Nearly half of these people, numbering around 40,000 have been diagnosed with cancers that could have only come from the toxic air that was expelled from the remains of the towers.

It should, therefore be a no-brainer that these men and women (and their families by extension) are financially compensated, especially given the expensive medical bills that come with cancer.

But Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) believes otherwise. He and fellow Republican Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against the funding. Senator Paul’s reasons for not voting for the compensation fund is as follows:

“It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country,” he said. “And therefore any new spending …  should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to, at the very least, have this debate.”

There is nothing to debate. More than our thanks or our verbal support, these men and women need our financial support. While they battle cancer, they should not be worrying about being able to pay their mortgage or put food on their tables. They should only be worrying about their health and their loved ones.

From my perspective, this is just another sign that the Republicans, as a party, have forgotten who hired them and who they are responsible to. I am not saying that the Democrats are perfect, but at least I know that they are doing the jobs that the average American voter hired them to do.

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Filed under History, New York City, Politics

The Lost Girls of Paris Book Review

War and espionage has often been considered a man’s game. At best, women were seen as secretaries working in the home offices, assistants or nurses. There was little room for women to be in the field as soldiers or spies.

Pam Jenoff’s new novel, The Lost Girls of Paris is set during and directly after World War II. While traveling through New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, Grace Healy finds a suitcase containing the images of a dozen different women. On a whim, she takes the suitcase with her.

The owner of the suitcase is Eleanor Trigg, the leader of a ring of female spies during the war. Among the women she dispatched to Europe, twelve were sent as couriers and radio operators whose job was to aid the resistance. These women never returned home, whether or not they survived is a mystery.

Curiosity gets the best of Grace and she goes on a mission to find out who these women were and if they survived. Within the twelve women, Marie, a single mother captivates Grace. She is determined to find out if Marie lived or died for her country.

Based on the true stories of British women who served King and country, this book is a must read. It is riveting, heart stopping, heartbreaking and inspiring all in the same breath.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City

What If the Average Citizen Had Spoken Up?

The question of “what if” is heavy question to ask, especially when it comes to certain historical events.

We know that we live in an imperfect world. We know that we live in a world in which one’s opportunities are often dependent on and defined by factors such as race, family background, religion, etc. We know know that we live in a world where many have been persecuted and massacred simply because of who they are.

Given what is happening in our country and in our world today, the what if questions in regards to the Holocaust and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II seem particularly potent.

What if the average citizen had spoken up? What if they had publicly protested, contacted their representative and voiced their concerns about the treatment of their fellow citizens? Would the world as we know it to be today different and perhaps a better place?

As I walked out of work this afternoon in midtown Manhattan, traffic ground to a halt. All four lanes of traffic were stopped, for what I think is a necessary reason.

The average citizen spoke up. They made it loud and clear that what our government is doing to the South American migrants who are only seeking asylum and a new life in the United States is wrong.

We cannot go back and undo the Holocaust or the internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II. But this protest today and the hundreds of others gives me hope that humanity is working towards a future in which all of us are treated equal.

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Filed under National News, New York City, Politics

Is It Possible To Retain a Reasonable Number of Parking Spots While Ensuring Bicyclists Safety in New York City?

Anyone who has ever lived in or visited New York City call tell you that a parking spot is worth it’s weight in gold. Finding a spot requires luck and perhaps paying for a garage or for street parking.

Many choose to bike to get around, either for personal or professional reasons. The Mayor’s Vision Zero plan promises to keep those are not in a car safe while traveling via bicycle or walking.

As of this month, 15 bicyclists have been killed by a car or truck, three in the last few weeks alone.

I haven’t driven a car in more than decade. I haven’t ridden a bike since high school. But I am New York City resident who understands that there has to be a balance. Pedestrians and bicyclists deserve the right to get to their destination without being hit by a car or truck. Drivers deserve the right to get around the city without having to completely yield to those are not driving. They also deserve the right to be able to park within a reasonably close distance to their final destination.

I think, in the end, it comes down to two things: common sense and following the rules of the road. Common sense and following the rules of the road won’t completely prevent accidents. But if followed, have a chance to reducing the number of accidents and keeping both drivers and bicyclists safe.

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Thoughts On the 30th Anniversary of When Harry Met Sally

There are romantic comedies and then there are romantic comedies. The first type of romantic comedy is semi-memorable, but when it comes down to it, the audience does not think of the film after they have the left the theater. The second second type of romantic comedy has legs long after the film has left the theater. It remains a favorite of audiences and critics and is celebrated as a hallmark of the genre.

When Harry Met Sally is one of these films. This month is the 30th anniversary of the film’s release.

Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) meet just after they both graduate from the University of Chicago. She offers him a ride from Chicago to New York. They become friends, but come together and drift apart as life changes. After a series of failed relationships on both their parts, Harry and Sally reconnect. The question that defines their relationship is as follows: can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way?

Directed Rob Reiner, this film is an out and out classics. It has all of the hallmarks of the romantic comedy genre without stretching the patience of the audience. Ryan and Crystal have amazing chemistry and just work as the friends who might or might be something more.

It has one of the iconic scenes and one of the most iconic lines in movie history set in one of the best restaurants in New York City, the 2nd Ave Deli.

Happy Anniversary When Harry Met Sally.

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Filed under Movies, New York City, Thoughts On....

Law & Order: SVU Character Review: Elliot Stabler

The new characters I will be reviewing are…the characters from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

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 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

When we arrive home after a long day of work, we want to be able to relax and leave work at the office. But for some, work sometimes bleeds into their home and personal life. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) is a New York City police officer who is assigned to the Special Victims Unit. Stabler is a husband, father and former Marine whose late father was also a police officer.

Though he has done well in his chosen profession, he has his moments. Particularly when he is in a mood, which can hinder what is considered to be the lawful method of receiving a confession from a suspect. This is where his partner, Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), comes in. She is able to calm him down so they can proceed with the case and not create a hindrance when the accused is put on trial.

He has long simmering anger issues, which complicate both his home and work life. These anger issues eventually lead him to the decision to retire and focus on himself and his family.

To sum it up: We all have light and dark in us. We all have those moments when all of our emotions bleed together and we say and or do something that will later on require some sort of act of contrition. It takes a mature person to realize this and take the necessary steps to work on themselves.

As a character, Stable is fascinating. He is a devoted husband, father and police officer. But he also has a temper and unresolved emotional issues that sometimes complicate his life. It is the light and the dark, which from my perspective as both a fan and a writer, that is absolutely fascinating dichotomy to explore.

Though he stepped off the SVU stage nearly a decade ago, the fan base is drawn to this dichotomy that is Elliot Stabler.

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If These Kids Can Succeed, Why Can’t Every Child Succeed?

It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to educate a child.

In an ideal world, every child would receive the same education regardless of factors such as family income, zip code, background, etc. However, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world in which a child’s education is often dependent on those same factors.

Over the past few years, there has been a debate about charter schools. Especially when these schools are in low income neighborhoods and there are more students applying than seats available.

Success Academy Bronx 2 is a charter school in The Bronx. Not only did the entire school pass the Algebra I Regents, but every student aced the test. From my perspective, this success is proof that when we prioritize education for all of our children, they will become the academic successes that we want them to be.

We just need to make sure that the schools, the teachers and the parents have the resources they need to provide that education. The problem is that these resources are sometimes scarce or non-existent.

Congrats to the kids. I hope this inspires other schools to fulfill and inspire their own students to their own academic accomplishments.

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Treasures from Chatsworth: The Exhibition Review

The title of the Duke of Devonshire and his family holding, Chatsworth House, is one of the most revered and awe inspiring aristocratic country houses in all of England.

The new exhibit, Treasures from Chatsworth: The Exhibition, is a showcase of 500 years of contemporary art that the members of the Cavendish family have collected and owned for generations.

Containing multi-media, jewelry, paintings, sculpture, clothing, furniture and drawings, the exhibit shows the respect and appreciation that this family had and still has for art.

The exhibit is different among exhibits in New York City, but it is worth a visit. It appeals (at least from my perspective) to art lovers, to history lovers and someone who is looking for something new and different to see.

There is a nod to the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, which was partially filmed at Chatsworth.

I recommend it.

Treasures from Chatsworth: The Exhibition will be at Sothebys until September 18th. It is free and open to the public. Check the website for schedule and location.

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Filed under History, Jane Austen, New York City, Pride and Prejudice