Lee Israel has talent; she just doesn’t believe she does. We can see it in Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me. In the creative way she impersonates the letters of great writers, adding her own writerly wit; but, hiding behind their names. (In fact, the NY Times called her book: Can You Ever Forgive Me: Memoirs Of A Literary Forger, “a sordid and pretty damned fabulous book.”) That is, after she came out of hiding. Yet, if Lee doesn’t hide; she’s sure all she’ll get is criticism; and she can’t stand that. The real culprit, though, is that horrid...

A sentence to shame is worse than having no sanitary pads month after month. Period. End Of Sentence. This film, 2019 Oscar Winner for Best Short Documentary, shows us very clearly that you can’t do much as a girl in rural India if you’re bleeding. But, not only that. When old superstitions and taboos about menstruation prevail, and you’re seen as dirty or cursed; stigmatized and ostracized; it interferes with everything. Especially with hope; school; and being able to "rise and fly." Believe it or not, this is the state of affairs in parts of India in the 21st Century....

Hate breeds self-hate. And, self-hate can make you Quiet. That’s one of the things George Tillman, Jr.’s The Hate U Give makes very clear. And, Amandla Stenberg’s moving performance as Starr Carter makes even clearer just how scary hate and self-hate can be to fight. Especially if people (police, for example) refuse to listen. I’m white and Jewish. I’ve never experienced extreme anti-semitism. So perhaps I’m one of those “privileged whites” Starr comes up against at Williamson School. I can empathize. Take action; and protest. But I don’t know from the inside what it’s like … To be Black; poor; live...

Hanging himself wasn’t Jackson Maine’s fault. Nor was his drinking. Yes, his brother Bobby said to the heartbroken, Ally: “It was Jack; not you; not me; Jack and no one else.” But, that’s because he didn’t understand. And, really, Jackson had the right idea: “A song is only an octave. Twelve notes and it repeats. Over and over forever.” Yet, that’s not only what happens in a song; it’s also in the musical undertones that play inside a life; octaves of the past; singing their haunting song. Only sometimes you can’t hear the words; especially when your trauma is in...

Heartlessness, and what causes it, is the theme in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther; as far as I can see. More importantly, Black Panther shows us how heartlessness can “create a monster,” in an abandoned child now-man, with his slow-burning hate; vengeful rage; and need for power. And, certainly, we witness what heartlessness has to do with greed and fear. Yes, there’s a lot going on in Black Panther, and a child cast aside, because keeping secrets is more important than his loneliness or need, is at the center of the story. But, let’s go a bit farther. Let’s think about...

Bohemian Rhapsody tells Freddie Mercury’s story. But, not just the story of his ascent, decline, and resurrection at the Live Aid concert in 1985. Bohemian Rhapsody is much more the story of someone (anyone) who distrusts love; and who believes “going solo” and not needing anyone is the answer. It’s not. And, Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody shows us why. We watch Freddie’s struggle, trying to manage doubts about love; by trying to find a likable self in the eyes of his audiences. And, when the glow of those eyes; that applause; their awe is gone; falls into an abyss...

Grief is a complex thing. Each of us grieves in our own way and for our own reasons. Alfonso Cuaron’s  sensitive and compelling Roma, tells the story of Cleo, a domestic employee and her employer, Ms. Sofia. We follow two very different women linked together in parallel universes of betrayal and loss. Two women with polar opposite reactions to grief. Grief brings turmoil; in its crashing waves or subtle surges; threatening to pull us down like the sea’s dangerous undertow. Grief’s eruptions aren't easy to manage. And, there are various ways grief is either felt, faced; or is not. Cleo...

What makes someone greedy; heartless; manipulative; and corrupt? So hungry for power that anything goes; even law; morality; & a daughter? Adam McCay’s Vice doesn’t answer questions of what or why. Vice tells the story of who and how. Yet, let’s for a moment think about Dick and Lynne Cheney as two parts of one person’s mind. I can show you how childhood trauma creates a tyrannical mental bully; waiting to steal every bit of power it can. “He did it like a ghost,” the film’s narrator tells us. And, that’s how a mental tyrant invisibly takes over when, watching...

Peter Farrelly’s The Green Book poses a challenging question: what could 2 unlikely road companions possibly have to teach each other? A lot, we find … even about friendship and love. But, with all their obvious differences, it’s an emotionally rocky road trip to get there. One of the 2 is Dr. Donald Shirley, a classically trained sought after Black pianist, isolated in his castle on top of Carnegie Hall. A lonely man with 3 doctorates; who had to sell out (& play pop instead of Chopin) to get to the top of anyone’s list. The other, Tony Lip, a...