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 Crown Season 5 Review

For four seasons, Netflix‘s The Crown has pulled back the curtain to tell the story of the Windsors.

Season five premiered last weekend. Taking place in the 1990s, it dives into the personal and professional troubles of the late Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton) and her family. Standing stalwart beside her is her now-late husband, Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce), and late sister Princess Margaret (Lesley Manville).

Among the issues that the Windsors are dealing with are the failing marriages of three of the Queen’s four children. As we all know now, the “happy” union of the former Prince Charles (Dominic West) and the late Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) has reached its breaking point. Returning to the arms of his ex, the former Camilla Parker Bowles (Olivia Williams), he is torn between duty and love.

This season is amazing. Among the main cast, Staunton and Debicki are the standouts. Staunton perfectly follows in the footsteps of her predecessors, Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman. Debicki’s performance as Diana is award-worthy. If I close my eyes and just listen to her, I almost expect that it is the real person, not an actor playing a part.

The only thing that we have to remember is that this is not a documentary. The show is fiction. Some of what we are watching has been made up and not based on actual events.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Crown is available for viewing on Netflix.

Yesterday was the 4th Anniversary of the Tree of Life Massacre

The massacre or murder is a moment in time that is forever frozen in our individual and collective memories. Though time may pass and things may change, we can never forget who we were and where we were at that point in time.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Tree of Life massacre.

A new HBO documentary, A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting, tells the story of that day and the people who were affected by it.

Accompanying the film is a music video for the song “The Tree of Life“. Sung by Idina Menzel, it is both a heartbreaking reminder of the death of 11 innocent lives and the inner strength that it takes to live with that loss.

May the memories of those killed that day be a blessing. Z”L.

A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting is available for streaming on HBO Max.

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The US and the Holocaust Review

There is a famous quote about history. As cliche as it sounds, it is the truth

If we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

The new PBS three-part documentary series, The US and the Holocaust premiered this past weekend. Co-created and co-directed by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein, actor Peter Coyote narrates the story of the near destruction of European Jewry from 1939 to 1945.

Within the film, there are interviews with historians, survivors, and readings from respected actors such as Meryl Steep, Paul Giamatti, and Liam Neeson. It does more than share what the events in our history books have already told us. It takes the viewer back in time to show what led the Shoah and repeats what most of us (hopefully) know. Though it’s been nearly a century since World War II, it is clear to me that we have not learned from the experiences of that generation.

The thing that hit me immediately is that there are far too many parallels to what is happening now both in the United States and around the world. Xenophobia and hatred have once again become the norm. We have a former President who has authoritarian tendencies, refuses to accept the results of the previous Presidential election, and has convinced many that he is the victim.

What made me angry was the spoken and unspoken complicity of a majority of Americans at the time. Though this country is supposed to be the land of immigrants and freedom. Instead, it became a land of isolation and hypocrisy. That hypocrisy was clear in the first episode when the connection was made between the Nazi’s racial laws and Jim Crow.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. In fact, I would say that it is required viewing for every American.

The first two episodes are available for streaming on the PBS website. The third will air tomorrow night at 8PM.

P.S. After I watch or read anything about the Holocaust, I can’t help but think of what the victims or the descendants might have given to the world. The late performer Olivia Newton-John was Jewish on her mother’s side. Her maternal grandparents got out while it was still possible to do so. If they hadn’t, it is very likely that she would have never been born and therefore, not entertained multiple generations of audiences.

Light & Magic Documentary Review

When we think of films or TV shows, we often think of the boldface names at the top of the credits: the director, the actors, the producers, the screenwriter(s), etc. For every name that is in large letters, there are many others whose work is important, but unknown by the audience.

Light & Magic is a new six-part documentary about the creation of Industrial Light & Magic, otherwise known as ILM. Started by George Lucas, the company started out as a way to create special effects for Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. In the beginning, they were a bunch of young rebels living off of dreams, hard work, and a limited budget.

Over the decades, ILM would not just become the pioneer for special effects. The company would also be behind the success of some of the biggest movies of our era, creating visual imagery that has caused multiple generations of fans to ask “how did they do that?”.

I enjoyed this documentary. It proves that determination, creativity, diligence, and coloring outside the box can change the world.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Light & Magic is available for streaming on Disneyplus.

Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist Review

One of the beauties of the internet is that it opens the door to opportunities that do not exist in our immediate communities. This includes the possibility of new romantic partners that we would have otherwise not met. The problem is that is impossible to sometimes tell what is fact and what is fiction.

Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist is the first season of a new Netflix series of sports documentaries that delve into high-profile scandals. This two-part documentary is the story of Manti Te’o and the girl he thought he was dating. About ten years ago, Te’o was a star player at Notre Dame and thought he had it all.

He almost had it all. The piece that was missing was the lie about his girlfriend. He didn’t know it at the time, but Te’o was being catfished. When the news hit the press, it nearly broke him emotionally and threatened his career with the NFL.

Wow. I was blown away. I felt so bad for Te’o. He is clearly a good guy who wanted to be loved and deserves love. I also felt bad for the person on the other end of the profile. They were lonely and needed someone to talk to. Unfortunately, that need morphed into Frankenstein’s monster and created a much larger problem.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist is available for streaming on Netflix.

Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres Documentary Review

Dreams sustain us when everything seems dark. Without that light and that hope that dreaming provides, what we wish for will always seem far away.

The new Netflix documentary, Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres tell the story of the late Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres. Born in a small shtetl in Eastern Europe in 1923, Peres and his family immigrated to what was then British-controlled Palestine in the early 1930s. When the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, he joined the newly formed government and over the decades, rose up and down in the ranking of leadership.

His story is both the story of Jews in the 20th century and Israel as we know it to be today. He faced political challenges that are universal and unique to the region. Above all, he believed that peace and co-existence with the nation’s Arab neighbors are not unattainable goals. Though they were not achieved within his lifetime, Peres opened the door for future generations of Israeli leadership to follow in his footsteps.

Narrated by George Clooney, this narrative is about a dreamer who was also realistic. Peres knew what he wanted the future to look like. At the same time, he understood that it would take work, courage, and being open to new possibilities to get the job done.

What I took away from the film was that dreaming is a good thing. But without getting your hands figuratively dirty, the image in your mind will remain just that. That inspiration crosses all boundaries and perhaps provides the lift we need to get off our buts and do what we need to do.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres is available for streaming on Netflix.

9to5: The Story of a Movement Documentary Movie Review

Every social movement starts with a small step toward change.

The 2021 Netflix documentary, 9to5: The Story of a Movement is the real-life 9 to 5. In Boston in the 1970s, female office workers were second-class employees. Stuck in an administrative (aka the secretary) role, they were blocked from climbing the professional ladder due to their gender. Banding together, they raised their voice and fought for better pay, better opportunity, and against sexual harassment.

I loved it. My generation of women stands on the figurative shoulders of these women. Without them, we would still be making coffee and answering the phone for our male bosses. What was also apparent is that though it’s been fifty-odd years, the issues they experienced then are still being wrestled with now.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

9to5: The Story of a Movement is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Our Father Documentary Review

For as many couples that are able to have children the old-fashioned way, there are numerous others who cannot conceive naturally. That is where modern medicine comes in.

Our Father is a new documentary that recently dropped on Netflix. It starts with an at-home DNA test. The woman at the start of the film knows that she came into the world via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). When the results come back, she discovers a horrifying secret. Her mother’s fertility doctor, Donald Cline, said one thing and did another when he injected the sperm into his client’s eggs.

As I watched this film, I got so angry. This man, for whatever reason, chose to play G-d. A doctor is supposed to save lives, not play with them for their own disgusting purposes. In doing so, he has potentially messed up multiple generations, while pretending that he did nothing wrong.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Our Father is available for streaming on Netflix.

The Martha Mitchell Effect Documentary Review

In every era, there are heroes that are recognized for their bravery. Then there are other heroes who are only acknowledged for their contributions long after that time has passed.

Martha Mitchell is one of those heroes who, unfortunately, is only starting to be seen and respected. The new Netflix documentary, The Martha Mitchell Effect, dropped recently on the streaming channel. In the early 1970s, she was married to John Mitchell, who was then the Attorney General for Richard Nixon. Not exactly known for being the meek and silent type, Martha was quick to blab to the press about her husband’s legally and morally dubious work. Silenced by both Nixon and her husband, she was made to believe that she was crazy.

I wish I had learned about her earlier. When we talk about second-wave feminism icons, Martha Mitchell is a name who rarely comes up. After watching this movie, I felt like she should be given a second look by modern feminists and historians. She dared to take on a corrupt administration and tell the truth when many stayed silent.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Martha Mitchell Effect is available for streaming on Netflix.

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