Best Movies of 2022

  1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: After the death of Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa/Black Panther), the questions on how the IP would continue without its leading man seemed endless. Black Panther‘s sequel is both the perfect memorial to Boseman and a continuation of the narrative.
  2. Avatar: The Way of Water: The 13-year wait for the follow-up to Avatar was worth it. The themes of climate change are just as relevant now as they were in 2009.
  3. She Said: Based on the book of the same name, it tells the heart-pounding story to uncover the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. NY Times reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) take on Weinstein and the Hollywood machine in a way that is jaw-dropping.
  4. Elvis: Austin Butler transforms himself into Elvis Presley, adding new layers to the music icon.
  5. Call Jane: Elizabeth Banks plays a housewife whose pregnancy is not going well in the days before Roe v. Wade. Denied an abortion by the local hospital, she finds an underground group and soon joins them in their mission to help women.
  6. Hocus Pocus 2: After 29 years, the Sanderson sisters are back. It has enough of its predecessor while holding its own in the best way possible.
  7. Mr. Malcolm’s List: Based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Allain, Mr. Malcolm is the most coveted bachelor in this Jane Austen-inspired narrative. In order to fend off marriageable young ladies and their match-making mamas, he creates a list of qualities that his wife should have. Little does he know that it will soon be moot.
  8. Downton Abbey: A New Era: This second film in the franchise opens the door to new stories while closing old ones in perfect fashion.
  9. Cyrano: This musical adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac starring Peter Dinklage adds new flavors to the well-known tale.
  10. The Tragedy of Macbeth: Shot in stark black and white, Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand star as the power-hungry and bloodthirsty Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
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Best Books of 2022

  1. Carrie Soto Is Back: Taylor Jenkins Reid‘s latest novel about a nearly over-the-hill tennis star took my breath away.
  2. I’m Glad My Mom Died: Jennette McCurdy’s memoir of her childhood, her career, and her abusive mother made me grateful for my parents, warts, and all.
  3. Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence: The revelations in this book are damming.
  4. What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix: The book takes Wuthering Heights in a new direction, deepening the narrative and an understanding of Bronte’s era.
  5. The Matchmakers Gift: A Novel: Lynda Cohen Loigman‘s latest novel about a Jewish teenage matchmaker in the early 20th century and her skeptic granddaughter is pure gold.
  6. The Princess and the Scoundrel: The book tells the story of the wedding and honeymoon of Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo after the destruction of the Empire in Return of the Jedi.
  7. The Weight of Blood: This reboot of Carrie adds racism to the mix, making Stephen King‘s novel even more relevant than it already was.
  8. Gangsters vs. Nazis: How Jewish Mobsters Battled Nazis in WW2 Era America: Their tactics may not have been exactly legal, but standing up against antisemitism is nothing to sneeze at.
  9. Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power: This biography of Nancy Pelosi is a reminder of the barriers she has broken and the legacy she will leave behind.
  10. His Name is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle For Racial Justice: The murder of George Floyd forced the world to face its racist past.

Here’s to the books we read in 2022 and the ones we will read in 2023.

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Women Talking Movie Review

Women being subjugated is a story as old as humanity. It took generations of our foremothers speaking up and not standing down to get to a point in which we are closer to equality. That does not mean, however, that the war has ended.

The new film, Women Talking is based on the book of the same name by Miriam Toews. It is set in 2010 in an isolated Mennonite community. For the last few years, the women have complained of rampant rape and sexual assault. Drugged, and later waking up sore and with blood between their legs, they are told that the perpetrators were not human.

When they realize that they were raped by the men in their community, they gather together to make a choice. The first choice is to stay and pretend that nothing happened. The second is to fight for equal opportunity. The third is to leave and start over somewhere else.

Starring Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand, it is an empowering tale of standing up for yourself and your children against all odds.

Directed by Sarah Polley, the themes are very similar to She Said. The difference is that She Said was a heart-racing thriller. Women Talking is not completely bland, but it is missing the heavy question that hangs over the character’s heads.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Women Talking is presently in theaters.

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She Said Movie Review

There are a few events every decade that defines that time. Back in 2017, that event was the revelation of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

The new film, She Said, is based on the book of the same name by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan play Kantor and Twohey. After investigating the sexual assault and rape allegations against a certain former President, they turn their attention to the rumors that have followed Weinstein for decades.

After being hit by brick wall after brick wall, Kantor and Twohey finally hit paydirt. Most of the women who they have reached out to are hesitant to talk. Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle), Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh), Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton), and Ashley Judd (playing herself) are just four of a long list of victims who finally come forward.

As they get closer to the truth, the danger becomes more apparent. Weinstein throws his weight around and threatens both the paper and the reporters themselves. But Kantor and Twohey have backbones made of steel and are not afraid to get their hands dirty to reveal the truth.

I’m not one to make predictions very often. But with this movie, I am going to make two bold ones. The first is that come award season, it will do very well. The second is that it will make most, if not all top ten lists at the end of next month.

Everyone should see She Said if they have not done so already. Mulligan and Kazan are fantastic in their roles. The tension is so tight that one could walk across it. As soon as I thought that the narrative was slowing down, it picked right back up again.

I feel like it is Hollywood’s way of both apologizing and redeeming itself for the mistake of looking the other way for far too long. It is both a love letter to journalism and a warning to anyone who would consider such acts in any place. If you do decide to think with your lower appendage without considering the other person, you will be caught and you will be punished.

Do I recommend it? Without a doubt.

She Said is presently in theaters.

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Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence Book Review

Rape and sexual assault are unfortunately a part of human history. For as long as anyone can remember, women have dealt with this reality on a daily basis.

Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence, by Ken Auletta, was published in July. This biography tells the story of former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the 2017 revelation of the numerous women he forced himself on.

Born to a Jewish family in Queens, Weinstein was an insecure boy who grew into an insecure man. Though this business acumen is notable, how he treated people (and women specifically) is another story. Though there were instances of kindness and generosity, those events were few and far between. He was temperamental, impatient, arrogant, and threw his power around like a frisbee.

The stories of the women Weinstein assaulted are basically the same. He would turn on the charm and make them believe that he was genuinely interested. He would then invite them to his hotel room to discuss possible career opportunities. Once that hotel room door closed, it was just a matter of time.

For obvious reasons, this book is hard to read. It is a long read and the subject is obviously a difficult one.

The psychological profile that Auletta presents is that of a bully. Like all bullies, he has unresolved issues. Instead of dealing with them in a healthy manner, he lashes out and takes his anger out on others.

If nothing else, it should get us all angry. The problem is not just Weinstein’s actions, it is the complicity of everyone around him. As Auletta points out, his sexual reputation was not unknown. Instead of rallying around his victims, the majority stayed silent. If they had the gall to speak out, there were consequences. It was only after the initial revelations in 2017 that the silence was acknowledged and genuine change started to occur.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also state that this is one of the top five books of the year.

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Anatomy of a Scandal Review

It is a universal truth that men (especially those in politics) often think with the organ below their belt instead of the one in their head.

The new six-part Netflix miniseries, Anatomy of a Scandal, is based on the 2018 book of the same name by Sarah Vaughan. James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) is a UK-based politician who has been accused of raping Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott), his subordinate/paramour whose relationship has gone sour. While his college sweetheart/wife of twenty-plus years, Sophie Whitehouse (Sienna Miller) is standing by her husband, her resolve is tested.

Prosecuting the case is Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery). Though she appears to be randomly chosen to represent the government, her connection to the case is much closer than anyone would guess.

Holy shit. The tension in this series is so thick that it could be cut with a knife. What starts out as a straightforward story morphs into twists and turns that made my mouth figuratively drop. Though I have never read the book (or even heard of it until I watched the on-screen adaptation), I am tempted to read it. The narrative is a roller coaster ride that is a thrill to watch and a unique way to explore a topic as tempestuous as sexual assault.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Anatomy of a Scandal is available for streaming on Netflix.

Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence Book Review

In 1991, when Anita Hill testified that that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her, it was nothing short of earth shattering. Instead of letting the shame destroy her or pretend that it never happened, she took her case to Congress. This brave choice opened the door for victims of similar acts to get justice and ensure that the perpetrators got what they deserved.

Dr. Hill’s new book, Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence, was published in September. Building on her very personal history of experiencing gender violence, she explores such subjects such as bullying, rape, the constant threat to the LGBTQ community, and the mind blowing comparison to the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. In speaking openly about such topics that are often buried under the rug or not taken seriously, she is challenging the reader to speak up, speak out, and ensure that these injustices are finally given the spotlight they should have received a long time ago.

This book is nothing short of mind blowing. If there was ever a fire lit under our collective behinds, this book is the match. Thirty years ago, Dr. Hill opened the door, broke barriers, and inspired multiple generations of activists to stand on her impressive shoulders. She got the ball rolling, it is now up to us to finish the job.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement Book Review

Some people are born to change the world. Others change the world by a twist of fate, forcing them to step into the spotlight and speak for those who for any number of reasons, cannot do so themselves.

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement, by #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, was published last month. Born in the Bronx, Burke was sexually assaulted as a girl. Believing that she was at fault, she let the shame settle into her emotional bones and change her. She thought it could be simply hidden away and life would simply go on. But the experiences would force her to not just confront her own past, but how other women have lived with similar traumatic experiences. She specifically explores how those responsible for such heinous acts are often given a free pass. At the same time, their victims must live with the scarlet letter that is forced upon them for something they were not responsible for.

This book should be on every must-read list of 2021. In telling her own story, Burke speaks for the millions of women across the world, past, and present, who were called all sorts of names simply because some man thought they were there for his sexual pleasure. By calling out those who would shelter sexual predators and supporting those who have suffered, she is challenging all of us to break the status quo and make assault/rape the criminal act it should have been all along.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Impeachment: American Crime Story Review

Back in the late 1990’s, the impeachment trial of then President Bill Clinton was everywhere. His affair with Monica Lewinsky and the scandal that followed could not be ignored. One would have to be either living under a rock or under a certain age to at least not catch a whiff of what was coming from Washington DC.

The third season of the FX series, American Crime Story, focuses on the whirlwind that surrounded the Clinton administration following the rumor that he had an extramarital affair with Lewinsky, who was then an intern in her early 20’s. Clive Owen plays the former President. The four main female players are Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco), Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson), and Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford).

What I like about this series is that it takes the sexism that was part and parcel of this this entire affair and turns it on its head. Nowadays, Clinton has been politically lionized in some circles for what he did while in office. But it is easy to forget that his reputation was that of a hound dog who was not above forgetting his marriage vows. The focus is not on him, but the women around them. Depending on the sources, Lewinsky (who is one of the producers of this season), Clinton, Tripp, and Jones are either mocked, ignored, or vilified for their behavior during this period. Instead of being portrayed as 2D stereotypes, these women are fully rounded characters and finally allowed to tell this story from their perspective.

The cast is fantastic. Owens disappears under a prosthetic nose and a southern accent. Feldstein gives her character the breadth and depth that she finally deserves after being a punchline for twenty plus years. Paulson’s Tripp is sort of an anti-hero. The viewer may not agree with the decisions she made, but we learn more of her than the headlines portrayed back then. For their parts, Falco and Ashford are equally good, trying to hold their own in a world that does not do them justice.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Impeachment: American Crime Story airs on FX on Tuesday night at 10PM.

Cry Those Crocodile Tears, Governor Cuomo

Rape, sexual harassment, and sexual assault is nothing new. It has been, unfortunately, part of the human experience. Thankfully, we are starting to grapple with this hideous event and persecute those who undertake such vile acts.

This morning, it was announced the sexual harassment allegations against New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo are more than rumor. He harassed 11 women, nine of who were employed by the state. Though he predictably denies it, the facts are too hard to ignore.

Some might say that this is payback, after the way he played political Ping-Pong with you know who over Covid-19.. But the truth is what he did is not limited to only elected public officials. It happens in all strata’s of our culture. The only way to route it out for good is to publicly and legally shame those have used their power for less than professional or honorable means.

If I could ask him one question, it would be the following: if one of his daughters came home from work and told their father of similar experiences, how would he respond? Would he downplay it? Or would he take his proverbial shotgun (as I would hope any good parent would do), and teach this person a lesson they will never forget?

Governor Cuomo has two options. He can either step down or be impeached. Either way, he has to go. And no matter how many crocodile tears he cries, his legacy will never be the same.

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