Throwback Thursday: King of the Egg Cream (2014)

Ambition is a wonderful thing. It propels us forward like few things can. That being said, there is a downside to being ambitious. In our drive to succeed, we may ignore a few moral or legal boundaries, which can stop us in our tracks.

The 2014 Tablet magazine helmed album King of the Egg Cream is based on an old-fashioned radio show. Harry Dolowich (Justin Bartha) is a lawyer who wants more than life offers in his largely immigrant Jewish neighborhood of Brownsville offers. This leads him to become the ringleader of a syrup racket in Brooklyn in the 1920s.

This is obviously a niche type of album. That being said, I have truly enjoyed it. Harry is an interesting protagonist. His intentions are good, but in the end, his ego and his drive get him in trouble. What makes it more than a standard period narrative is the details of the era, allowing the listener to be swept into the narrative.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem Series One Part One Review

Family is complicated. Marriage is complicated. We can only do our best and hope that it is good enough.

The new Netflix series, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, is based on the novel, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem: A Novel, by Sarit Yishai-Levi. The first half of the first series is set in the 1920s and 1930s. It follows the women of the Ermoza family, a Sephardi Jewish family living in Jerusalem. Gabriel (Michael Aloni) is in love with another woman but is forced to marry Roza (Hila Saada), by his mother Merkada (Irit Kaplan). He tries to be a good husband and father but is not exactly dedicated to his family. Almost twenty years later, their eldest daughter, Luna (Swell Ariel Or) is growing up in a time of political tension and struggle.

I don’t recall if I read the book, but the first series is fantastic. Set against the backdrop of British-controlled Palestine (i.e. pre-1948 Israel), the emotional conflicts within the Ermoza family collide with the heady and complicated world events of the era. It is fantastic, immediately grabs the viewer, and does not let go until the final credits roll. If nothing else, it reveals a side of history in this region that is not often talked about in the mainstream press.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The first season of The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. The second season is scheduled to be released sometime in July. I eagerly await its arrival.

Flashback Friday: The Artist (2011)

The transition in Hollywood from silent era movies to talkies in the 1920s is a fascinating one. Actors who were at the top of the pyramid suddenly found themselves out of work when sound became the new normal.

The 2011 film, The Artist, is the story of this transition. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the biggest star in the world. He also has an ego to match. Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is a fan whose career goal is to be a dancer. During a movie premiere, they bump into each other and she kisses him on the cheek as photographers surround them.

Gaining instant fame, Peppy gets a chance to audition and sees her dreams become reality. But as she becomes a star, talking pictures start to take over and George’s time in the spotlight starts to fade.

This movie is absolutely lovely. It is charming, entertaining and the perfect love letter to the movies.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Passing Movie Review

When one is part of a minority group, there are two obvious choices. The first one is to be who you are, regardless of what is being said about you. The second is to pretend to be someone else and fit in, otherwise known as passing.

Passing is the title of the new Netflix film. Based on a book written by Nella Larsen, it is set in New York City in the 1920s. Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) were friends in high school. Both are biracial and have not seen each other for many years. Irene has embraced her identity as a woman of color while Clare is passing as Caucasian. Upon meeting Clare’s very white and very prejudiced husband John (Alexander Skarsgard), Irene is both curious and disgusted by her old pal’s life preference. For her part, Clare is drawn into Irene’s circle of mostly African-American friends (including Irene’s husband, Brian, played by Andre Holland). Unlike Clare, they have openly and proudly embraced their identities. She is forced to grapple with the self-applied mask of passing she has put on.

Written and directed by Rebecca Hall (who has been speaking to the press about her own biracial identity), this is a powerhouse of a film. Though both the book and the movie tell the story of two women who are both partially of African-American descent, I felt like understood them. I’ve often spoken on this blog about my own Jewish faith and identity. I could, if I wanted to, pass as someone of another faith or no faith at all. I’ve been asked quite a few times if I am of Irish ancestry due to my red hair.

At the end of the day, it is this decision we make that defines our lives. Do we not give a fuck and just be ourselves or do we submerge who we are to be accepted by others? It is a question that each of us must ask ourselves, knowing the outcome has to potential to have life-altering consequences.

Do I recommend it? absolutely.

Passing is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. I would not be surprised if Passing did well come award season.

The Drowning Kind Book Review

The bond with our siblings is an interesting one. They are hopefully our best friends. But they can also be someone who we wish we would get along with, but just can’t.

Jennifer McMahon‘s new book, The Drowning Kind, was published in April. Jax is a social worker living on the West coast of the United States. Her relationship with her older sister, Lexie, has been fraught due to Lexie’s mental health issues. When her sister drowns in a pool on the family estate, Jax has no choice but to return home. Going through Lexie’s things, she begins to uncover the history of the property and the mysterious spring that is rumored to be haunted.

The narrative then flashes back to the late 1920’s. Ethel Monroe is a newlywed with only one wish: to become a mother. Seeing that his wife is is need of a break from their daily lives, they take a trip to a new hotel in Vermont. This hotel is not only famous for being the latest and greatest, but it has a natural well that can grant wishes. But for every wish that is granted, the well needs something in return.

This book is a slow grind, but in a good way. The mystery is revealed in a manner that sends a chill up the reader’s spine. I generally don’t watch or read ghost stories because I am a writer and I have a vivid imagination, which loves to comes out and play when it is time to go to bed. What kept me hooked was the relationship between Jax and Lexie, but the supernatural element added another level to the narrative making it that much more interesting and readable.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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