Best Movies of 2021

  1. Quo Vadis, Aida?: This harrowing tale of one woman’s choice to save her family or save as many people as she can during the Bosnian War is as powerful as a film can get.
  2. Mass: Two sets of parents meet after one of their sons has killed the other in a school shooting to figure what happened. Along the way, they are forced to answer questions that are painful and difficult.
  3. Spencer: This fictional take on Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) and what might have occured during Christmas in the early 1990’s is a unique take on the myth of the late royal.
  4. Belfast: A young boy is growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the late 1960’s. As he starts to transition from a child to a young adult, he begins to realize that nothing is ever a simple as it seems to be.
  5. Black Widow: After ten years, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) finally gets the movie she should have gotten. Trying to atone for her past while living in the present, she must face reality and make up for mistakes.
  6. Framing Britney Spears: This Hulu documentary took viewers in the life and career of Britney Spears and how it has changed since her father took control over both.
  7. West Side Story: Steven Spielberg’s adapation of this beloved musical takes it into the 21st century while retaing its message about prejudice and lack of opportunity.
  8. The Eyes of Tammy Faye: Jessica Chastain not only brings Tammy Faye Bakker back to life, she reveals the real person behind the punchline.
  9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: This latest addition to the MCU is more than just the first all Asian cast. It is the story of a complicated father/son relationship and a young man who cannot run from his fate.
  10. Moxie: A shy teenage girl stands up to the sexist bullshit at school and empowers her fellow female students in the process.
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This will be my last post of 2021. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing tonight, have a safe and happy New Year. See you in 2022.

The Matzah Ball: A Novel Book Review

The beauty of a romantic comedy is the nearly endless narrative possibilities. The reader/audience can only hope that the writer(s) chooses to color outside of the lines instead of sticking to the same story we have all seen far too often.

The Matzah Ball: A Novel, by Jean Meltzer, was published in September. Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is living a double life. To her readers, she is the best-selling writer of Christmas romance novels. In real life, she is the daughter of a respected Rabbi and Doctor who has been living with a debilitating illness for years. When her publisher requests a tale based around Chanukah, Rachel is at a loss.

Enter Jacob Greenberg, her preteen camp crush/nemesis. Returning to New York after his mother’s death, he has a successful career as a party planner. His sole intent is to host the Matzah Ball, a party celebrating Jewish music on the last night of the holiday. He has every intention of returning to Paris the night after the event. What he does not know is that Rachel will come back into his life, needing a way into the festivities.

Their initial meet-cute after nearly twenty years of separation does not go well. But as they spend more time with each other, the hurt and questions from their mutual summer together may turn into something else completely.

I loved this book. It has a perfect Pride and Prejudice undertone with layers of complexity, characters who are thoroughly human, and a holiday chronicle that is utterly charming, My only problem is that I found the character of Mickey, despite his background, to be a little too cookie-cutter. The role of the GBF (gay best friend), is usually nothing more than a stereotype and a sounding board for the female lead. It would have been nice if the author had stepped out of the box a little and not relied on the 2D trope that has been done too many times.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Hawkeye Review

*I know nothing of the content of the original comic book that Hawkeye is based on. This review is strictly based on the television series.

After a long-running movie or television series has run its course, it is not surprising if fans need a break. If the narrative is to continue, it is important that the writer(s) and creative teams find new plots that they might not have considered before.

Earlier this week, the MCU/DisneyPlus, Hawkeye premiered. In the opening scene, young Kate Bishop (Clara Stack) is witness to the destruction of New York City during the first Avengers movie. Losing both her home and her beloved father, Derek (Brian d’Arcy James) will forever change her life. We then flash forward to the college-age Kate (Hailee Steinfeld). She returns for winter break after accidentally destroying a building on campus and is unhappy that her mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) is engaged to Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton).

Meanwhile, Hawkeye/Clint Black (Jeremy Renner) is in the city with his kids to enjoy the Christmas season. He hopes that his only interaction with his superhero past is a dreadful musical adaptation. It’s supposed to be an ordinary family vacation. But fate, his past, and Kate Bishop force him to pick up his bow and arrow once more.

So far, only the first two episodes have been released. What I have seen so far, I like. There is a nice balance of action and comedy. Clint’s reluctance to become Hawkeye again is the yin to the yang of Kate’s eagerness to show that she can be as badass as he is. The emotional hook is not the physical aspect of the story, but how both Kate and Clint have to deal with the issues in their personal lives.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Hawkeye is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

Spencer Movie Review

Spending time with the family during the holidays can be a wonderful and heartwarming experience. It can also be emotionally fraught with unspoken emotions and arguments that have yet to be resolved.

The new movie, Spencer, takes place over Christmas in the early 1990s. Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart), as tradition commands, is spending the holiday with her husband and her in-laws. Her “fairy tale” marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) is at its breaking point. Reigned in by Major Alistar Gregory (Timothy Spall), the only person she can trust is her dresser, Maggie (Sally Hawkins). As her mental health declines and she begins to see the ghost of Anne Boleyn (Amy Manson), she has a choice. Diana can continue to stay where she is and spiral out of control or break free, knowing that her life will never be the same.

OMG. Spencer is not only one of the best films of the year, but also a surefire contender come award season. Stewart’s Diana is truly exceptional. This is a woman who just wants love, but is treated as a commodity by the ones who are closest to her. She tries to fit in, but it is quite obvious that Diana sticks out like a sore thumb. I have zero complaints about this movie. The tension starts with the opening shot and does not let up until the credits roll. It is gloriously uncomfortable to watch, knowing what we know about Diana’s all too short life.

My favorite aspect of this film is that it destroys the myth that American actors cannot play British characters. While we generally accept British actors (i.e. Man of Steel) playing American characters, the same cannot be said when the situation is flipped. The most frequent complaint is that the accent the performer uses is more of a caricature than the real deal. Stewart is so good in the role that I almost forgot that I was watching a piece of fiction and not a documentary.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Spencer is currently in theaters.

Flashback Friday-Christmas Edition-Will You Merry Me? (2008)

You know it’s Christmas when Hallmark movies start to pop up on the television schedule.

In 2008, Hallmark semi-diverted from their standard Christmas movie to tell the story of Jewish girl engaged to a Christian boy in Will You Merry Me?.

Rebecca Fine (Vikki Krinsky) comes from a Jewish family living in Los Angeles. Henry Kringle (Tommy Lioutas) comes from a Christian family living in Madison, Wisconsin. While Rebecca and Henry are happily in love and eager to start a life together, their families are not quite as eager to see the young couple walk down the aisle. Of course, Hanukkah and Christmas collide, adding to the misunderstandings and miscommunication. Will Rebecca and Henry say I do or will their families pull them apart?

Let’s put it out there. It’s a Hallmark Christmas movie. It’s predictable from the word go. But, it’s nice to see that the creative team attempt to add a little diversity to the usual narrative.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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. 

Dear Retailers

Dear Retailers

Today, if you are not aware is November 4th. Halloween was five days ago.

The weather in New York City was comfortable today, the only requirement to stay comfortable was a light jacket. The leaves are falling, Thanksgiving is in a few weeks.  Fall is in the air.

And yet, the Christmas blitz has begun.

I understand that the holiday season represents a good chunk of your annual revenue.  You need to get us, the buying public, excited about the holidays, so that we will buy your stock. I get it, I start thinking about holiday shopping this time of year like anyone else.

But truth be told, I don’t want to think about the holidays in November. When I think of the holidays, I think of cold weather, of snow. I think of putting several layers just to take the garbage out.

When did the Christmas season become about playing “top that” on gifts and decorations? Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, it’s about family and tradition. It’s not about the latest and greatest gift which has a good chance of becoming a dust collector in six months or the newest piece of technology which will be outdated in less than a year with next model.

And I won’t even get into black Friday (which at this point, for some stores, is bleeding into Thanksgiving).

In short, I would like to enjoy my fall.

Sincerely

A shopper

The Holidays

It’s that time of year again. The stores are advertising massive sales, the lights are on the houses and the weather has become rather chilly.

Christmas and Kwanzaa are just around the corner. We are halfway through Chanukah.

There are some, in the name of diversity and multiculturalism who believe that instead of referring to the individual holidays, we all should use the generic Happy Holidays message.

While I understand where they are coming from, I don’t quite agree with them.

If I see someone who celebrates Christmas, I say Merry Christmas.

If I see someone who celebrates Chanukah, I say Happy Chanukah.

If I see someone who celebrates Kwanzaa, I say Happy Kwanzaa.

If I see someone who has no particular religious faith, I say Happy Holidays or Happy New Year.

I believe that to foster co-existence and respect, we have to acknowledge the fact that our neighbor may celebrate a different holiday. To lump all of the holidays together out of fear that someone may feel offended does not do justice to this very multicultural country that we call home.

That being said, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. May we all enjoy this holiday season and the joys that come with it.

 

Too Soon

One of the stores by my house has already put out some of their Christmas stuff.

Kmart has already come out with their not a Christmas commercial.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular has started to air their commercials.

Is it me, or is Christmas starting to be advertised earlier than it was ten years ago?

I have nothing against Christmas. Spending time with family, giving gifts, etc, is enjoyable and wonderful.

However, with Christmas comes winter. With winter comes snow, cold temperatures and putting multiple layers just to take out the garbage.

I understand the stores reasons for advertising Christmas early, but I would like to enjoy my fall first.

It’s too soon.

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