Friday, August 31, 2018


I am a woman who never wanted children. I don’t coo at babies, I don’t desire to interact with them until they are about 2-years old when we can communicate and giggle together; but admittedly I marvel at their soft skin unmoved by time’s implacable hand, reminding me how, as a young girl, I would intentionally bump into women wearing glistening  black, silky fur coats on the streets of NYC, covertly trailing my hand along the velvety down, for a fleeting caress. So when my sister, among others, told me to watch CALL THE MIDWIFE a BBC series on Netflix I scoffed at the idea. 

But I  was mistaken - this series is not only about babies brought into the world assisted by nurse and nun midwives working in the poverty-stricken East End of London (Poplar) in the 1950’s and 1960’s  - an area that was beginning to recover from the devastation of World War II, which still cast a long shadow on the lives of the people at a critical time of historical change - each episode chronicles a pressing issue that impacted women then and even today.

Every conceivable birthing situation is addressed along with a diverse group of expectant mothers who come to the bustling clinic with toddlers, teens, and family in tow. Movingly the women are seen as individuals many of whom are struggling with poverty, abuse, and often unwelcome pregnancies at a time when contraception was not available. Women stayed home and had babies the choices made for them by society’s strictures.  Some critics might regard CALL THE MIDWIFE as a sentimental look at the status of women in the mid-20th century, but the bleak realities of economic and spiritual deprivation are spotlighted with a penetrating lens.

The nuns and nurse/midwives live at Nonnatus House which is a convent dedicated to interacting with the Poplar community;  a place that salvages the neighborhood’s wounds and is a sanctuary for the populace to escape their hardship and engage with one another. I embraced each of the extraordinary kind and generous caregivers. Despite being idealized we see the flaws, insecurities, and childhoods imprinted on their psyches. Every person has a story that is shunted into darkness; many have secrets that could not be revealed for fear of isolation and expulsion. There is a breadth to the scope of this series’ view of humanity which is not often brought to light. CALL THE MIDWIFE addresses the goodness in society —even if that goodness is just a kernel dreamily floating in the universe.

Monday, August 20, 2018


I saw two movies that got great reviews from the critics. Both were disappointing - Spike Lee’s BLACK KkKLANSMAN and Jon M. Chu’s CRAZY RICH ASIANS.

John David Washington as Ron Stallworth and Laura Harrier as Patrice 

Spike Lee did almost everything right in his latest movie,  BLACK  KkKLANSMAN and this could have been a great film; his baring of the scope of rampant racism and anti-semitism throughout history is on the mark, but there is often a shield of empty and tired dogma shrouding his characters. The power of fresh, convincing expression is rare and hard to come by; language that feels both natural and emotionally gripping is sacrificed to the altar of ideological protest-speak.

The visual imagery and Terry Blanchard’s music were gripping; if only his actors spoke to one another less self-consciously, not as scripted and predictably. When Lee inserts documentary footage, he does so brilliantly - taking clips from what many consider the classic racist 1915 film, Birth Of A Nation right up to the 2017 white supremacist's protests in Charlottesville Virginia.  We see the same faces of hatred and contempt - not much has changed.

Topher Grace as David Duke

I was once told that when it comes to racism and issues of poverty and hate, people have to be “hit over the head” continuously for them to see and talk with one another - perhaps that is what BLACK KkKLANSMAN is trying to do. Alas, my heart was not moved, though my intellect was ever-present.
Adam Driver and John David Washington

Henry Golding and  Constance Wu

CRAZY RICH ASIANS is a stereotypical re-imaging of “generational divide’ taken straight out of Hollywood/Bollywood and moved to Singapore with exaggerated and at times outrageous characters, cavorting in glitzy, tacky celebrations of the seductiveness of wealth’s “glamor” with the starring couple’s disavowal of those “trite” values while embracing them. 
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We see a well-meaning tale of love overcoming parental “class” disapproval performed by an all Asian cast. The movie included the run-of-the-mill parodies of a goofy family, a ridiculous gay man, and a bitchy ex-girlfriend; the tear-jerking Cinderella story was updated for our 21st-century era so that the leading lady is an educated, independent woman who is a Professor. Alas, this over-production lacked originality and charm which would have made CRAZY RICH ASIANS more bearable.

Constance Wu