Five Good Movies and A Stinker

One of the best things about living in New York City is that, if you’re into movies, we get them all first!  A whole slew of new ones have come out lately and of the six new ones I’ve seen, five were terrific.  There was also, however, one absolute stinker.

I’ll start with the good ones.

Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy in JACKIE.

Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy in JACKIE.

JACKIE, about Jacqueline Kennedy in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination in Dallas in 1963, was very interesting but extremely sad.  This poor woman not only witnessed the brutal murder of her husband but was sitting right beside him when his head was blown off, so you can just imagine the extent of her trauma.  If you are not someone who has read a lot about the assassination, as I have, fair warning, you might be a bit confused by the format, which skips back and forth over the timeline of events.  However, it’s a good movie.  Natalie Portman does a superb job.  I could not help but wonder what it must have felt like to be Natalie, playing this role, and donning the iconic pink and navy blue suit and pillbox hat that Jackie was wearing on the fatal day…

MOANA, from Disney.

MOANA, from Disney.

I love anything Hawaiian, Tahitian, or anyplace in between, so I had to see MOANA.  A gutsy girl fights to save her island with the help of an egomaniacal god.  It’s good, clean fun, and the songs are pretty cool, too.

DENIAL, starring Rachel Weisz.

DENIAL, starring Rachel Weisz.

DENIAL stars Rachel Weisz as a professor fighting the claims of a Holocaust denier who calls her a liar and says the Holocaust didn’t really happen.  Weisz does a great job, and the movie, which could have turned out too slow since it’s all about lawyers and strategies, moved along and was riveting.  Lost somewhere in the middle of it was one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard with regard to shutting up the Holocaust deniers: that someone should have gone over the ruins of the gas chambers at Auschwitz and done a forensic analysis of them.  Indeed, that’s a great idea since the evidence would speak for itself.  Meanwhile, the only criticism I have of the movie itself is that it didn’t show the childhoods of the two main characters, but merely mentioned them.  It would have been good to see some of their backstories play out.

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in ALLIED.

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in ALLIED.

ALLIED is set during World War II in Casablanca, France and England, and it’s very good movie.  Brad Pitt is married to Marion Cotillard who is a Resistance heroine…or is she?  There’s some problems with the plot of this story, since the resolution wasn’t as clear as it could have been, but Pitt and Cotillard are a beautiful couple, they’re eye candy like the stars of old used to be, and it’s stunning to watch.  Bring a hanky.

ELLE, the most wretched movie.

ELLE, the most wretched movie.

Before I get to the best of the movies I’ve seen these last few weeks, I may as well mention the stinker.  It’s a French movie called ELLE, and frankly, it sucked.  I went on the afternoon before I started a new job, hoping to sit back at a nice movie, relax and enjoy it.  Ha!  Instead, I walked into a creepily terrifying movie about a sexual assault.  Isabelle Huppert is the star.  This bomb of a movie starts out as an apparent whodunnit and slowly (too slowly) devolves into a what-the-hell-is-it?  Add to that, I know enough French to realize the subtitles weren’t always the correct translation of what the insane characters were saying, but not enough to catch all of it.  Perhaps it’s better in French, but it left me with questions, not answers.  As for the violence, well, if you want to give yourself a heart attack, the ferocious scenes in this awful flick might be enough to send you to the Emergency Room, but if you don’t want to have a cardiac arrest, as we say in Brooklyn, FAHGEDDABOUDIT!



Now on to the BEST of all of these movies.  For cuteness, suspense, fun, and sheer entertainment, J.K. Rowling’s FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM was the most enjoyable movie of them all.  Newt Scamander of HARRY POTTER fame, played by Eddie Redmayne, comes to New York City in 1926 with a suitcase full of magical creatures…and they promptly get loose…I’ll say no more, but the ending of this one made me want to stand up and cheer.  Want to be entertained?  Stick with anything by J.K. Rowling!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A rose grows in Brooklyn.

A rose grows in Brooklyn.

This was such a beautiful day that it was almost surreal.  The sun was shining over swift-moving fluffy clouds here in Brooklyn, New York, and I have rarely seen such a beautiful jewel of a day.

I’m between jobs at the moment, due to “downsizing” at the really nice non-profit organization where I have been working for the past year and a half.  I had hoped to stay there permanently, but Fate had other plans.  Many, many years ago, there was another jobs where I’d hoped to stay permanently, until I retired, but two years later, that particular company went bankrupt.  This is America, where this sort of thing happens a lot.

So, once again, I find myself off from work.  I spend many hours applying for jobs online.  Having to find another job, while still wishing the one I had will call me to say they can afford to take me back (which would require a miracle at this point), is a challenge, but one that’s rife with possibilities.  The right position is out there for me.  I’m going to find it.

In between filling out forms on the computer and going on interviews there’s time to, literally, stop and smell the roses.  Take a look at the beauty I photographed today!  It’s above, and it’s gorgeous.


The Bullying Problem That NEVER Gets Addressed


Autumn brings to mind school days...

Autumn brings to mind school days…

Hats off to The Disney Channel!  They’ve launched a “Choose Kindness” campaign to encourage children to stop bullying one another.  October is Anti-Bullying Awareness Month.  On the 1st, Blue Shirt Day, people were encouraged by an organization called Stomp Out Bullying to wear bright blue shirts to bring attention to the issue. Stomp Out Bullying deserves kudos, too.

Any organization that tries to stop bullying, in my opinion, should get as much applause as possible.  I know what I’m talking about.  Once upon a time, I was bullied myself.

Yet there’s a bullying issue that I feel does not ever seem to get addressed, no matter how many websites and organizations do their very best to bring the matter out in the open.  It’s the issue of teachers bullying students.

And it’s bad.

I saw bullying teachers at their absolute worst not in the public schools I attended, but in one Catholic and one private one.  I saw:

– A boy get flipped over background in his desk, crash-landing on his back on the floor, just for smiling;

– Another boy made to kneel on a hard wooden floor for an hour over a minor infraction;

– A girl whose skirt, deemed “too short,” was cut down by a screaming principal wielding a scissors;

– Two children who were daily berated in front of the class because the teachers deemed them somehow “unworthy,” though it was never specified just of what (though I suspect the fact they had a different European background than that of those teachers had a lot to do with it);

– Girls put down and threatened, daily, with expulsion for their grades;

– A teacher referring to an overweight kid as “Gross” in front of other students, thus encouraging them to also use the appellation;

– Children being downgraded so that other kids whose parents donated more money could have a better class rank;

– An entire week of abuse directed at several grades of children just because a few girls laughed during a class trip;

And more.  Quite a lot more.  Those stories were only the ones I saw happening to other children.  I’ve got one of my own as well.

It’s one matter if a child is mistreated by other children, but when your tormentors turn out to be the adults who should be responsible, but aren’t, are supposed to be keeping order, but don’t, and are charged with keeping you safe, when they’re actually making a target out of you, that’s just unnatural, if not also surreal, and it’s the epitome of wrong.  Ridiculous, too.  Picture a 40-year-old calling a child names and you’ll get an idea of exactly how ludicrous it is.

So many people I know have horror stories like these about teachers abusing students with bullying tactics.  While it’s wonderful that there’s so much attention given, now, to children bullying children, why is there such a dearth of information about adults, teachers, coaches, etc., bullying kids?  Where is the outcry?  Why does this never get addressed?

Does no one realize just how sick these adults have to be to behave in such a manner the first place?

Last night, on a re-run of Criminal Minds, one of the FBI agents said, “The smaller the victim, the easier to control.”

Really?  Well, what happened to me was quite a saga.  There were some teachers at one school who made my life beyond miserable, and did so deliberately.  The worst one of them all is still alive, and so is another.  I’ve been saving the full details about it for a book I’m planning to write one day.

Easy to control, are we?  Let them try controlling that!

Where in the World Is Bob Dylan?

One of the many portraits of Bob Dylan by his old girlfriend, Faridi McFree.

One of the many portraits of Bob Dylan by his old girlfriend, Faridi McFree.

My late, great friend, Faridi McFree, who was one of Bob Dylan’s many girlfriends, wanted to make a cartoon show based on him.  Since his real name was Robert Zimmerman, she decided the main character of the show would be a little “Heartoon” she named “Zimmie the Zipper.”  This was because, she related, he was “all zipped up” when it came to communicating with other people.

I’ll say!  You nailed it, Faridi!  Bob Dylan just won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, but the Nobel people can not find him!  Where in the world is Bob Dylan?  And why can’t he simply acknowledge his prize?  Could it be that he really is all zipped up?

You know, it would be great if Faridi’s “Heartoon” about “Zimmie the Zipper” could be considered worth another look by  television producers.  She had a great little idea for a cartoon series there, and it was a shame it was never moved forward.

And by the way, if you’re interested, or were wondering, zipped up or not, Faridi loved Bob Dylan until the day she died.

Now where in the world is he?  Carmen Sandiego would be easier to find…

Faridi McFree, whose cartoon series idea about "Zimmie the Zipper," based on Bob Dylan, deserves another look. Television producers, take note!

Faridi McFree, whose cartoon series idea about “Zimmie the Zipper,” based on Bob Dylan, deserves another look. Hey, Mr. Producer!  I’m talking to you, sir!  Take note!



The Everything's Coming Up Roses Calendar!

The Everything’s Coming Up Roses Calendar!

Here it is, boys!

Here it is, WORLD!


All those who know me know how much I love to photograph anything that catches my eyes, where the light and shapes and colors are intriguing, or better yet, downright near-perfect.  But of all the things I love to photograph, my favorites are roses!  It’s by complete coincidence that I wrote a book, Mama Rose’s Turn, about a theatrical personality whose first name just happens to be Rose, too.

Here’s a link to my “calendar of roses” for 2017.  Almost all of them were taken in New York City.  It’s my first calendar of several, available now on  A full preview is there on the link.  Please take a look, have a prosperous 2017, and enjoy!

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

Here's Hillary!

Here’s Hillary!

And here's Trump!

And here’s Trump!

While lots of people keep on screeching about this election, or getting upset, hyperventilating, unfriending their best friends, and acting ridiculous in more directions than I ever previously dreamed existed, I can’t help but think it’s getting funnier by the minute!  What a source for material!

While taking a stroll, I personally chanced upon the animatronic “Trump Fortune Telling Machine.”  It makes comments.  It has red electric eyes that flash.  I may have been filmed for the news while hitting the button to try to get a fortune – there was a TV camera present, and laughs and smiles all over the street.

Somewhere else today in New York City, there appeared a topless statue of Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Today somebody attacked Topless Hillary.  She reported sat upon the statue.  Of all the things in all the world to sit on, easily the last one I’d pick is a statue called Topless Hillary.  Once the sitter ensconced herself upon yon merry statue, she and a bunch of other people started fighting, right out there on the street.  In front of a museum, yet.  That was on the news.

No one is sure who’s making these “works of art,” but the election is certainly inspiring a lot of the creative types, and you simply can’t make this stuff up!

And to those who are just about ready to tear out their hair over it, or the obsessives who are viciously berating your friends as part of a Red State or Blue State self-appointed social media attack squad: LIGHTEN UP!  There is a saying that “the masses are asses,” but do you really think you’re personally controlling the election by making asses out of yourselves?

The Amanda Knox Movie

Amanda Knox, the movie from Netflix.

Amanda Knox, the movie from Netflix Films.

I saw the movie about the Amanda Knox case last weekend, and all these days later, I’m still appalled by the way that case went down.

I didn’t follow the story too closely, but knew the basics.  Exchange student Amanda was living in Italy where she was accused of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher, after an orgy or a night of wild sex or some such tabloid-sordid situation.  She said she wasn’t there at the time it happened but was staying with her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.

The police in Italy didn’t buy it, in large part because – get this – she “acted inappropriately” when she found out the girl was murdered.  Video in the documentary shows Amanda and her boyfriend kissing, a little too passionately, as they wait in the yard of the house where she’s staying and Meredith’s body was found.

Was it inappropriate?  Well, yes, actually.  Something about the over-the-top nature of it made me uncomfortable.  I didn’t like watching it.  What’s appropriate in the bedroom isn’t in the yard of a murder scene.  Yet the girl was only twenty years old, her boyfriend trying to comfort her.  Does it mean they murdered Meredith?

Not shown were the cartwheels Amanda was said to have been turning in the yard of the house as she continued to wait for the police to get done with the crime scene.  Cartwheels?  While standing outside of the house where there was a murder?  I’ll admit, that’s downright bizarre, strangeness of the worst order.

On the other hand, how long was she standing out there?  Might she have needed to stretch her muscles?  Was she perhaps blowing off steam, since if she’d been home in the house that night, she could have been killed, too?

Yes, turning cartwheels is not “appropriate.”  But again, does a cartwheel really point to Amanda and her boyfriend being the killers?

It brought to mind another accused killer of many years ago, Lindy Chamberlain.  Remember Lindy?  She said her baby daughter, Azaria, was snatched up and killed by an Australian dog, a dingo, on a camping trip.  Lindy was kind of brusque and matter-of-fact when questioned.  “Let’s just get on with it,” was one of the lines I recall Meryl Streep uttering, with no emotion, when she played the role of Lindy later, in a movie, A Cry in the Dark.  Lindy and her husband were sent to prison for three years, wrongfully, in large part because some policeman considered her reactions to the killing of her baby as “inappropriate.”

What, though, is an “appropriate” reaction to a murder?

I have personally witnessed a mass murder.  When I emerged from the elevator at work on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was watched the first of the World Trade Center towers burn, stunned.  As I looked, the second plane hit the second tower and exploded into it.  I worked at a media company called Video Monitoring Services of America at the time.  They recorded news segments for public relations clients, so there were television screens above the windows at work – and the actual sight of the horrific events that were taking place right outside of those windows, maybe a mile away, but still in a direct line with our building and clearly visible.  I felt three things in a row: 1) that this was absolutely surreal, with the live and close-up images in front of us at the same time; 2) terrified our building could be next; and 3) that the explosion reminded me of the ones in, of all things, Star Wars.

I never mentioned that Star Wars thought to anybody.  Yes, the sight outside the windows reminded me of the pyrotechnic effects in the movie, but such a comment just wouldn’t have been right to say at such a time, and I knew it.  I kept my mouth shut.  Had I been twenty years old, though, instead of 40, I may have blurted it.

I walked around in shock for about ten days, not crying, not laughing, not looking for any humor, the way I usually do, because who the hell could after such an event?  I wasn’t acting at all like me, I was a silent shell, but that’s what happens after something extraordinarily horrific takes place right in front of you.  You stop acting like you.  You can go on automatic pilot, like I did, or run and become hysterical in the bathroom, like another friend at work later said she did.  A third acquaintance, watching the same scene from a few blocks away at another media company, wound up having to take tranquilizers and go to therapy ever since from his reaction to it.  Yet another friend no longer wants to go into Manhattan because of it.

Four people.  Four reactions.  Four different extremes, in four different directions, to the same terrible event.  I was the quiet one, but no less terrified.  One quiet, one hysterical, one strung out, one phobic.  Who can say how any one of us might react?

Let’s get back to Amanda Knox.  A policeman who saw her reactions to what had happened decided “she did it.”  He set out to prove it.  The evidence pointed almost entirely to a known area thief who broke into houses, but the cops still concentrated on Amanda  and her boyfriend- not the overwhelming evidence pointing away from them.  The thief’s DNA was all over the house.  Hello!

The result?

Amanda was in jail, out on appeal, considered guilty again in another trial, and finally cleared in an Italian supreme court hearing.  Same deal with her boyfriend.  Now I don’t know about you, but this back-and-forth shuffle, guilt vs. innocence, evidence interpreted this way, then that, and the ensuing incarcerations, in themselves, strike me as…inappropriate!