Moments of escape can be moments of clarity!

"Oh, had I but followed the Arts"-William Shakespeare

Sunday, December 4, 2016

BITS & BOBS AND MUCH NEEDED DISTRACTIONS

I had planned on writing a special Blog post on the apocalypse to come, after the election of "he who shall not be named." But, I felt I needed a break from all the cluster-fuck-ed-ness going on. So in the interest of self-preservation, I just needed to step back. In the near future,  I will be writing a piece on  how I will be moving through these next 4 years (ugh) and trying to stay healthy and safe.  But, for now I have retreated to my favorite self-care distractions, Books and Music..also Movies, but that's for Reel of the Week.

I have been reading almost non-stop, which is nothing unusual. I have recently become a fan of John Sanford's character Lucas Davenport. His Prey novels are fast-paced mystery  thrillers and SECRET PREY didn't disappoint:


Lucas Davenport is still reeling from his breakup with his fiance Weather Karkinnian and losing his battle to stave off depression, when he is called in to help in the investigation of a  shooting near a hunting cabin.  At first glance , the local PD sees it as a tragic accident, but it doesn't take long for Lucas to find the inconsistencies , changing this from accident to murder.
The victim is the CEO of a bank that's smack in the middle of an important merger. As Lucas digs deeper, the playing field for suspects grows ever larger as the list of people jockeying for power gets longer.
Lucas quickly finds out that power and money are a lethal combination and a Killer with money holds all the cards and has time on his side.

I think the most that I expect from a book is to be transported, especially at this particular time.  Also to be entertained and if it's a really good mystery, to be surprised by the ending.  it's a tall order and maybe a lot to ask, but most times I at least get two out of three. SECRET PREY gave all three. I did have to slog through a boatload of suspects, but it worked. I wasn't able to guess the ending. So if you are a fan of Murder & Mayhem, the PREY series may fit the bill for you.

This is only the second PREY novel for me. There are 27, so I have a long way to go and I'm reading them out of order. Maybe I should have stated from the beginning?


Since the Holidays are upon us, I've decided to post some of my favorite Christmas songs.  I love the Hope in Christmas songs and how they yearn
 to invoke in us humanity & compassion. So...

"Ain't no Chimneys in the projects"- Sharon Jones & The dap Kings
"Merry Christmas, darling"- The Carpenters
"Every year, every Christmas- Luther Vandross
"O'Holy night"-Mahalia Jackson
"have yourself a merry little Christmas"- Leslie Odom, jr

These are just a few of my favorites. So as we finally and Mercifully bid adieu to 2016, Happy Holidays and remember to #StandWithStandingRock and that #BlackLivesMatter , to #Resist and  that  #HesNotMyPresident...


  

Monday, October 10, 2016

London has fallen...into Deja Vu

                                         photo courtesy of independent.uk

So I had started out, writing a Bits & Bobs, but it was going down wonky road, so I decided to watch a movie. Which brings me to this unplanned Reel of the Week. I decided to go out on a limb and watch 2016's LONDON HAS FALLEN.
To be clear, I harbored no illusions. I knew this was going to be a same ole, same ole tired, racist, Brown people as terrorists narrative we've seen over and over. Okay, maybe I had a tiny illusion, because Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman were in it. I needed to be sure...or tortured...or proven wrong...

A funeral for the Prime Minister of London, brings together leaders from all over the world, including the president of the United States (Aaron Eckhart). This forms a perfect storm for a terrorist attack with the President of the U.S. as the main target. It's up to his Security Team, Lynn Jacobs who is the Director of the Secret Service (Angela Bassett) and his right hand man, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) to guard his life and traverse the streets of London to get to safety.

POC have to constantly walk a tightrope when it comes to Diversity in Film.  It is so rare to see ourselves on screen, we are hungry for it and want to support Films that have POC in non-stereotypical roles.  Angela Bassett's character was strong, intelligent and in-charge. The sad part is, they took that character and literally threw her away, for no reason.  It was not something that had to be done to move the plot forward. It didn't make sense, in fact it would have added more to the plot had they not done it. They brought in a white woman who added absolutely nothing to the plot, had maybe three lines and was just confusing.
Morgan Freeman, who played the Vice President, gave his usual, understated, dignified performance.  He has presidential down to an art. Gerard Butler gave an adequate white guy hero performance, predictable, but solid. Aaron Eckhart was suitably overly patriotically Presidential.
I made it through LONDON HAS FALLEN because I have to admit it was exciting and had some very tense moments. They did throw in a few white terrorists, which did keep my umbrage down to a manageable level. So, I guess I have Angela, Morgan, a few nail-biting moments and the fact that it was only  an hour and a half to thank for my feeling a little less angry...and bamboozled. I'm tired of saying the Film Industry has to do better. Maybe they are incapable of it.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Dichotomy between Then & Now is very thin indeed...

I am back, trying to squeeze in one more post before the end of the month to feel productive, instead of like the lazy summer slug I feel like. For this weeks Reel, I hit the theater, which is a rarity for me.
This weeks Reel is 2016's FREE STATE OF JONES



Farmer, turned reluctant Confederate soldier, Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey)is sick of fighting a war in which he has no stake.  He owned no slaves and didn't grow cotton. He is also repulsed by both the killing and the looting of local farms by the Confederacy, which they called a "tax", but left women and children with no food stores for the winter. During a particularly bloody skirmish, Newton flees, and with the help of Slaves and other deserters both Men & Women, waged a Rebellion. In 1864 they took over the town of Ellis and renamed it FREE STATE OF JONES. 
Knight began a relationship with his grandfather's former slave Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). His wife Serena (Keri Russell), after being burned out of her home also moves to JONES.
Newton and his rag-tag group not only become a town, they become a family of sorts. They continue to fight against the until the fall of the Confederacy. Even with the end of the War FREE STATE OF JONES has to fight the ashes of the Civil War, in the form of the KKK, Reconstruction, sharecropping and the Black Vote.
For a lot of Whites in Mississippi, the fact that Newton lived and worked side by side with the Black people of JONES was more of a betrayal than fighting against the Confederacy.
His descendants feel the sting even today.  His children by Rachel are shunned by both sides of his family and called Newton's Negroes.

FREE STATE OF JONES was surprisingly  balanced and thoughtful. More shocking was Matthew McConaughey's portrayal of Newton Knight. He softened his usual over the top drawl and delivered a believable performance. Normally I tend to be reluctant when it comes to movies about Slavery. Gugu Mbatha-Raw was a huge selling point for me, because she's an incredible actor. That being said it's still very much a double edge sword.  You want to support movies with POC, but at the same time we want to see all sides of who we are. Diverse, complex, multi-dimensional. We have other stories besides the Slave narrative. Not only that, it's painful to watch.  A comedian once said "Black people watching movies about Slavery is like a Cow watching how Beef is made". That is so true. POC have a myriad of stories to tell. Native Americans are more than the stoic Warrior or Shamans or living in the past. Asians are more than Mystics and Martial Arts.Those stories are only part of POC's Rich & varied human tapestries.
That being said, FREE STATE OF JONES was an important story and one I had not heard. For that alone, I recommend it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

THAT'S NOT A SOLUTION? THINK IT THROUGH!


Finally my latest Blog.  With Summer and all the other "events" happening, I have needed the distraction of Films and Books more than ever. I've probably seen at least 10 movies and read at least that many Books in the interim, so I've plenty of reviews waiting in the wings. I just need to stop procrastinating...yeah, like that's gonna happen.
This weeks Reel is 2011's STAND OFF.

Jimbo (Martin McCann), who lives in a small town in Belfast, Ireland, can't seem to get his life on track.  It's not from a lack of trying. He tries to be a good dad and a good mate to his son's mother, but can't pull himself away from old habits.  He spends his days hanging out with his childhood friend and gambling away what little money he has, hoping for that big pay-off. Jimbo gets in serious debt by borrowing money from Mad Dog Flynn (David O'Hara) the local Irish Mob Boss, who lives up to his name. He has one day to pay his debt to Mad dog. With misguided youthful abandon, Jimbo decides the solution is to rob the local fish market. After his bumbling, inept crime is complete, he finds out too late that the Fish market is a front for the Irish Mob. Now, Jimbo finds himself on the run from not only the police, but Mad Dog is also out for blood. To make matters worse, Jimbo has holed up in a local Antique store with the owner Joe (Brendan Fraser), his girlfriend Sophie(Yaya DaCosta) and two stowaway kids as hostages. Jimbo's solution to his debt problem has quickly become a snowball headed over a cliff with Joe in it's path.

When I decided to watch STAND OFF, I thought it was an action movie. It was devoid of any action what so ever. I'm really not even sure what genre it was. There was comedy, but it was in strange places and decidedly unfunny. It wasn't like the macabre humor of "Fargo", it was just misplaced and a bit uncomfortable. There was nobody you wanted to root for. I had a brief moment of joy, when I saw there was a Black woman (Yaya DaCosta) cast as a shop keeper & later Joe's girlfriend. She didn't pass my "Where my Women of Color at" test, which is like the Bechdel-Wallace, but geared toward women of Color: 1. More than one woman of Color 2. they must talk to each other about something other than a man. 3. They must have a life outside of listening to a white woman's problems. 4. They must have a name. 5. they must survive past the first 20 minutes of the film.
Sophie only passed  #4 & #5. The only thing you knew about her was she came to Ireland from Africa, but we knew EVERYTHING about Joe and it was boring as hell. I was hoping for more because I love David O'Hara but, STAND OFF left me bored and a little disgruntled at not being able to get that hour and a half of my life back...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hey, it's just a few short Blocks, easy peasy....

Hey, I'm back! I know you missed me. I think I'm doing better, don't you?  Don't answer, just go with it.

This weeks Reel is 2006's 16 BLOCKS.

Bruce Willis is Detective Jack Mosley, a worn out,  burnt out, alcoholic cop who has emotionally checked out. He is going through the motions, waiting for death or retirement , whichever comes first.
His boss who adds insult to injury by being young enough to be Jack's son, asks him to escort Eddie Burke (Yasiin Bey) from jail to the courthouse to testify before the Grand jury. Jack grudgingly acquiesces, but when Jack leaves Eddie in the back seat of his patrol car to buy liquid courage, someone tries to murder his charge.
Jack quickly finds out that Eddie is not some run of the mill felon and he must summon up some real courage if he and Eddie are going to make it the 16 BLOCKS to the courthouse or even survive the next 16 minutes.

I love an action movie and 16 BLOCKS definitely delivered that. It was suspenseful, mostly plausible and well acted. Bruce Willis and Yasiin Bey did a great job and they had chemistry. 

 It didn't pass the Betchdel test, but more importantly, because of the lack of intersectionality, it didn't pass MY Reel Women of Color test. The story took place in NY, so really no excuse for not having more Women of Color. Granted at least the one Black woman that had a speaking role was the District Attorney, so they get one point for that. But, she was it. The only other woman was Jack's sister.  She had about 1/2 a dozen lines...maybe.
I couldn't help wondering why Jack's character couldn't have been played by a woman? A Woman of Color!
Anyway, it really was a good movie.  I'm still rooting for the Film industry to do better, but my rooter is gettin' tired...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bits & Bobs and "The room where it happens"

As I say good bye to the last vestiges of winter and the promise of summer reveals itself, I start to collect books by my bedside for those warm Summer evenings. Along with John Connolly, Kathy Reichs and James Lee Burke, I have a few from Richard North Patterson.   I just finished his novel "ESCAPE THE NIGHT" which didn't disappoint in the  shock and suspense department.


John Carey was brought up hard and carried that into adulthood. His drive to prove his worth, brought out a ruthlessness which extended into every aspect of his life. He knew from the time he started working for the largest publishing company in Manhattan, Van Dreelen, that one day he would own it all. His quest for power overshadowed everything, including his family. The only attention he paid to his two sons was to pit them against each other for the inheritance of the company he held dear, above all else.  The animosity this forced competition created between his sons Philip and Charles had disastrous and desdly results not only for the two brothers, but for the next generation.
ESCAPE THE NIGHT had so many twists and turns leaving me wondering what was around the next corner. Richard North Patterson is the king of Intrigue and espionage. He is right up there with Robert Ludlum and John Le Carre. If you are a fan of either of them, you will love Richard North Patterson.

When I'm not reading, I'm still working creatively. It's been a full few months. I continue to push past the stumbling blocks of working  in this Industry in Maine.  I have been able to work with some creative and visionary women in Film. I just finished a short Film for the upcoming Bluestocking Film Festival. I'm excited about this film. 
I also had the pleasure of working on the first season of a strange and hilarious web series focusing on the wacky employees of the fictional "Jeff Lynne's Discreet Investigations". Fun and laughter ensued. For more news on these projects, you can follow @GitgoFilms, @eiayay or @Bluestckng.


When I'm not acting or reading, I always find time for all things musical. I am currently listening to THE BUCKINGHAMS . A group that was definitely underrated, musically and lyrically. As a singer, I am always looking for tunes that stand the test of time and are easy to tweek and make your own. Many of the BUCKINGHAMS songs fit the bill beautifully.






I am also unashamed to say that I have fallen down the #HamiltonHole.  It's been a long time since I have had a Soundtrack playing on my ipod continuously. 
One of my favorite tunes (although they're many) is "Say No To This." Their is something about the combination of the chord progression and the lyric that I find infectious. It's just a really well written and fun Soundtrack. But I warn you, people are going to look at you strangely when you find yourself walking down the street singing "It must be nice, it must be nice. To have Washington on your side."








Sunday, March 6, 2016

THE SKEW FROM HERE

Whoops, I unexpectedly took the month of February off. I think I was just enjoying Black History Month. So I'm back and all fresh with this month's Reel.  It's 2014's BLACK OR WHITE.  When BLACK OR WHITE came out, I was resisting the urge to prejudge so I decided to clear my mind, take a deep breath and plunge ahead.

Elliott (Kevin Costner) is man grieving the recent death of his wife while raising his deceased daughter's child Eloise, who was born during her relationship with a Black man. The unexpected death of his wife, sends Elliott into a tailspin of alcohol abuse.
Eloise's grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer), sees Elliott's struggle and wants to help, but she also thinks it's time for Eloise to get to know her Black relatives.  Elliott has harbored animosity toward Eloise's father because he blames him for his daughter's alienation from her family.
Rowena is tired of waiting for Elliott to "come around" and also tired of waiting for her son to step up and claim his daughter.  Her frustration precipitates a custody battle, which brings to the forefront, hard feelings and deep-seated racial issues.

Okay, I have some real mixed feelings about where this movie chose to go. I appreciate where it thought it was going, but it just didn't get there. It leaned so heavily on stereotypes on both sides. No one was willing to flip the script. It was still a white male driven story, I mean a white male wrote the story!
The Black side of the family lives in the "rough" part of town.  The Black man is a jailbird, crack smoking, absent father who Elliott believes "corrupted" his pure white daughter. It smacked of Maine's Gov. Lepage's rant about drug dealers. While Elliott is just a poor grieving grandfather, with the more acceptable vice of occasionally drinking too much. So what if he's just "a little" racist, he loves Eloise. The movie does nothing to dispel racist stereotypes, in fact it reinforces them. It's more of a story about White fragility than anything else.
The hard part is that the acting is really good. Kevin Costner gives one of his best performances and Octavia Spencer is a heartbreaking force of nature in her role as Rowena. It's so hard, when you want to support films that have diversity, but the stories have to be as diverse as the people, but to do that we have to be allowed to tell our own stories or at least be consulted when cultural issues are explored.
Do I recommend BLACK OR WHITE?  For the acting, yes! But look at it as a White Male story about White Fragility not a story about healing racism.