Saturday, June 23, 2018

Murder at the Marina: A Guest Post & Blog Fiesta!

Ellen Jacobson, of The Cynical Sailor & His Salty Sidekick fame, has just released the first of a cozy mystery series that revolves, much like Ellen's own life, around sailing, water, and boatyards, and I was thrilled to be included in the amazing roster she put together for what she's—rightly—calling not a blog tour but a blog fiesta!

Please join me in giving Ellen and her lovely new book the warmest of welcomes!

Thanks for hosting me on your site today to celebrate the release of my cozy mystery, Murder at the Marina. This is the first book in the lighthearted and humorous Mollie McGhie Sailing Mystery series, featuring a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth.

My own sailing adventures and misadventures inspired me to write this series. My husband and I bought our first sailboat in New Zealand in 2012. After a couple of years cruising in those beautiful waters, we returned to the States and bought a bigger boat which we moved onto in 2015. We've since cruised in Florida and the Bahamas, labored over endless boat projects, and worked to keep our cruising kitty (savings) topped up.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The May #WATWB Edition: A Loud & Clear Yes for Women! #IrelandReferendum

My original WATWB post was drafted and ready to go early this month, for a change—and then I found out somewhere that Ireland was due to vote Friday on a referendum for legalizing abortion, and on a whim I decided to hold the post until the results came in. I wasn't very hopeful, given Ireland's long history of religious bias against women (this is, after all, the country where divorce was not just impossible but unconstitutional up until 1996!), but... what if it did happen? Wouldn't that be the mother (pardon the pun) of all extraordinarily good news?

Against all odds, history was made. In a landslide vote, Ireland has repealed the Eight Amendment of their constitution to make abortion legal. The foremost Catholic country of the West has—finally!—recognized that a woman's body is her own, not a breeding machine over which the state, or anyone else, has any jurisdiction.

"This vote is about a rejection of an Ireland that treated women as second-class citizens."

Thursday, April 12, 2018

On Body and Soul (Teströl és lélekröl): Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

On Body and Soul (Teströl és lélekröl), Ildikó Enyedi, Hungary, 2017
Closing Film (Sun Apr 9, 2017, 22:00)

I was a little wary of this one; the description mentions "a slaughterhouse in Budapest is the setting of a strangely beautiful love story", and—well, watching animals die, let alone in a systematized, 'commercially viable' way is low on my list of things I find entertaining. But the festival people were pretty convincing, and we ended up getting tickets.

Yes, the slaughterhouse isn't toned down or disguised, and a good portion of it plays a key part in the development of the story. And since the film is in Hungarian, it wasn't like I could look away during those gory scenes; I tried to read the subtitles as fast as possible, to train my eyes to focus only on the subs and ignore the images (it's more difficult than you might think; the eye wants to follow movement, make sense of the colors and shapes), but there were some spots, maybe one or two, when I did look away completely, and subs be damned.

But it was worth it.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Arábia: Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

Arábia (Araby), João Dumans & Affonso Uchoa, 2017 (Uruguay)
Sunday, April 9th, 2017, 18:15

A story within a story, both of them riveting, this film is a journey of loss and nostalgia, of social injustice—but also, most poignantly, of hope and joy and the beauty of a simple life. It's a hard film with a soft heart; a story of love and poverty, of hope and its clash with reality.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Donkeyote: Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

Sunday, April 9th, 2017, 14:15

To this day I'm still not sure whether it was a documentary or fiction, or a mix of both. It's catalogued as a documentary, but it feels like fiction. Something magical-realist here. A quirky film, certainly—but endearingly, maybe even wisely, so. And how could it not be? The wordplay in the title isn't just a tongue-in-cheek throwback to the Cervantes classic; this film is a subtle tribute to the Dreamer, a modern reminder, perhaps even a revival, of the Quijote and its magic: the mask of satire that slips and reveals nostalgia underneath, the whistle-in-the-dark laughter at the expense of old age, the self-deprecating dig at our own idealism—and the sudden spark of hope that maybe the impossible dream really isn't all that impossible.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Neruda: Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

Sunday, April 9th, 2017, 11:45

Pablo Larraín was the only director to have two films at the festival: Jackie, and this one. Both extraordinary, as different from each other as oil and water, both clear evidence—maybe even more so taken like this, together—of Larraín's exceptional talent for narrative and conceptualization.

If Larraín's name sounds familiar, it might be because his latest production, Una Mujer Fantástica (2017), won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film at this latest edition of the Academy Awards. Or perhaps you saw No back in 2012, which also starred Mexican actor and activist Gael García Bernal.

In Neruda, García Bernal plays the bad guy. Well, sort of; he is the main character (arguably—and they do argue this in the film), in the sense that the film depicts his journey from 'bad' guy (the police inspector chasing Neruda, who's become a fugitive in his native Chile after joining the Communist party) to... well, if I tell you that, I'd be spoiling the entire film for you.

Suffice it to say this: Neruda is as far from Il Postino as one can get. (And, as far as 'poetry' films go, it's an entirely different universe from Paterson.) I don't mean just in the context of filmmaking or cinematography or narrative style—although, yes, there is that. But the Neruda we see in Larraín's production is the politician, the activist, the figurehead for social upheaval, as much as he is The Poet—and in the process of portraying this 'other' side of the man, Larraín's achievement is to give this Poet, a mythical, almost ethereal, creature, a dimension of humanity and reality that makes him—Neruda—all the more indelible as a historical figure. And—perhaps most importantly—translates his poetry into the language it was always meant to speak: the political.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Angélica: Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

Saturday, April 8th, 2017, 21:45

Another glorious, glorious portrait on race and the roles women play—by pressure, by tradition, by choice. One of the underlying threads of Angélica, one which touched me deeply, is the mother-daughter relationship. As with Julieta, this is a troubled relationship, further complicated by racial issues (mom is white, daughter is mixed)—but this racial difference, apparently only a surface one, serves to symbolize a deeper divide, one most appropriately blamed on generational gaps, and—coming full circle—on the ways perception of darker skin has evolved (and has yet to evolve).

I believe this is director & screenwriter Marisol Gómez-Mouakad's formal debut, and, yes, there are some bits of production that could be improved on. The budget clearly didn't cover extensive filming in NYC, so the bits set there may seem somewhat raw and unpolished. Some of the post-production could also do with some work; editing and continuity issues, but mostly minor. It's clear, however, that Ms. Gómez-Mouakad is a talent to be watched in coming years. There are many—many—long-time filmmakers who can't come within ten feet of her sensibility and sheer storytelling power.

Above all, this is a story about finding ourselves—our self, the true one, the one that doesn't hinge on approval from the ones we love, or the ones who profess to love us—and about what it takes to be true to it. It is a film about love, too; the romantic variety, and the familial one. It is a film about dreams, the ones we forget, and the ones that somehow find their way back to us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

American Honey: Reviews from the 2018 Curaçao Film Festival #CIFFR

Saturday, April 8th, 2017, 15:45

This one surprised me. As much as my interest was piqued by the trailer and the summary in the festival booklet, I didn't expect it to be quite so powerful. I think I imagined something of a period piece, a bit of The Breakfast Club meets a millennial's version of Kerouac's On the Road. And... well, yes, it is that. But it's so much more.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

I Am Not Your Negro: Reviews from the 2018 Curaçao Film Festival #CIFFR

Everything you've heard about this film is wrong. Okay, not wrong, just not... enough. There are no words to describe the power here, the tragedy, the desperate reaching for hope in the face of all the futility. This is, quite simply, the greatest documentary you will ever see. It will touch you—change you—in ways you didn't even think possible.

Woven from James Baldwin's unfinished novel, Remember This House, given voice in the sober tones of Samuel L. Jackson, and given flesh and blood by director Raoul Peck's extraordinary talent, this is not just an eloquent portrait of Baldwin or of his own story, but of the story of race in the United States—right up to the present day, and beyond.

The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.

Coming on the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, all the focus on racial injustice for decades and centuries—and happening today, still—this couldn't be a more timely film. 

Although Curaçao is far, far from the racial inequality so prevalent in the U.S., there is still quite a bit of it; in different shapes, in different tones, but still there. (Here.) One of the things that angers me the most is hearing white (or white-ish) people saying, "This whole slavery thing, man—just get over it!" For years I've struggled with a response for that—a response not just appropriate but effective—and I never managed to come up with anything satisfying. Now, finally, I can give them a rather condescending smile and say, "Have you seen I Am Not Your Negro?"

I am not a nigger. I am a man. But if you think I am, it means you need it. And you've got to find out why.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Elle (Paul Verhoeven): Reviews from the Curaçao Film Festival 2017 #CIFFR

Friday, April 7th, 2017, 21:15

Oh, how I hated this one. I should have known; Mr. Verhoeven and I rarely see eye to misogynous, chauvinistic eye. This film is, quite bluntly, about a woman who gets raped and enjoys it. Yes: enjoys it. The rape, in fact, turns her on so much that she deliberately goes after the rapist—not to exact vengeance, mind you (or castrate him, or cut his throat in the middle of the night), but to get raped again. And again.

And the idiot the director has the balls to call it a film about female empowerment. I suppose that, in Mr. Verhoeven's world, the only power women need to aspire to is that of loving their abusers.

The female lead, Isabelle Huppert, won Best Actress at the Golden Globes last year. And well deserved. She managed to translate into reality the twisted, masturbatory fantasies inside the cesspool that must be Verhoeven's head.

Unless you're looking to be profoundly disgusted—as if the world weren't offering enough of that already—do yourself a favor and skip this one.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

El Vigilante (The Night Guard): Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #CIFFR

Friday, April 7th, 2017, 13:30

This was one of the three Mexican films in the festival. I loved it, but several other people I spoke to (including Cor, my partner) found it a bit confusing. I hadn't realized it until they mentioned it: this film is uniquely Mexican in the sense that it portrays our idiosyncracy beautifully—our weird sense of loyalty, our mistrust of authority, our ties to family, our deference to employers—to the point where the plot hinges on it. So, if you're not Mexican, you'll probably walk away scratching your head a bit. But why didn't he just tell the truth from the beginning? Would've solved everything.

That said, as a thriller it has some very powerful moments. The cinematography is masterful, Buñuel-esque, using the construction site, the setting of the story, to full advantage. The acting, even from minor or incidental characters, is natural and fully believable. The film, director Diego Ros's debut, won Best Film in the Los Angeles Film Festival last year, as well as Best Film and Best Actor in the Morelia festival in 2016, so I'm evidently not alone in praising it.

If you like thrillers, especially of the psychological kind, you may want to give this one a try.

(Sorry about the trailer; couldn't find one with English subtitles. But you can perhaps gain a bit of insight of what I meant about the cinematography.)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Pop Aye: Reviews from the Curaçao Film Festival 2017 #CIFFR

Thursday, April 6th, 2017, 21:30

Beautiful, beautiful movie. A naiveté that stole my heart and made me cry and cry in spite of the (sort of) positive ending. Or maybe it was the elephant.

No, no it wasn't.

Well, not just the elephant. Yes, I loved that pachyderm, and I loved his story, but the magic of this film resides in the narrative style. There's plenty of humor—fine, subtle, often guileless, humor—guaranteed to make you chuckle (and, if you're feeling particularly susceptible, even laugh out loud). But this is a social statement, a critique on the materialistic lifestyles we've somehow managed to convince ourselves we need. And because it is told in such a guileless way, it underlines even more harshly the redundancy of the goals we live and die by.

This is a feel-good movie. Remember to keep the tissues handy at the end, though.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Casamance: Reviews from the Curaçao Film Festival 2017 #CIFFR

Thursday, April 6th, 2017, 19:00

Some might think it a tad amateurish (I'm not one of them), but even those can't help being swept away by the magic of music and candor that is this film. Documentaries are difficult to make; unpredictable plots, characters that insist on doing their own thing instead of sticking to the script—oh, wait, no script. Documentaries are about truth: real people, real events, heart and soul given flesh. And the music! An exploration into African rhythms, their history and evolution, and their trasmutation into Latin culture and music... This one had us tapping our feet—and looking into trips to Senegal.

It's almost time for the 2018 film festival, and I am far, far behind on the reviews for the 2017 films! So over the next four weeks I'm going to be posting three or four times a week in order to get through them all. They'll be shorter than originally planned, and I do apologize. Yes, it's a time issue, but it's also what I specifically didn't want to happen: I have forgotten a lot about these beautiful, beautiful films. *Sigh*

Friday, January 26, 2018

The #WATWB January Edition: No Space for Sexism — #TimesUp

Here it is, the first We Are The World blog event of the year—and my first post of 2018!

In the spirit of the #MeToo and #TimesUp momentum that saw the old year out and the new year in (and shows no sign of abating; a nod of appreciation, by the way, to Casey Affleck for declining to attend the Oscars this year—let alone hand out the statuettes), I thought I'd start off with a brief but potent story about female empowerment. What makes this story special for me is that it doesn't come from Europe or the U.S. This happened in Sri Lanka, of all places. It underlines that this fight against predatory behavior and sexism in general is a global thing, and I believe it's important to highlight these instances, especially when they're successful, because the only way real change will be effected is by keeping those voices coming, loud and clear. Sing it, sisters—and I'll join my voice to yours.

This is the billboard that sparked the controversy in Colombo (Sri Lanka's capital). Yes, I would've been offended by it. But I probably wouldn't have done much about it—aside from boycotting the gym advertised, certainly. If I'd been a member there, I'd have cancelled my subscription. I might even have suggested similar action to a friend or two, if I knew they went there, too. Yes, the gym would've gained a black mark in my book... But that would've been it.

And that's the core of the problem when it comes to sexism, isn't it?

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