Wednesday, December 6, 2023

🌟 Kwei's Movie Reviews--"Rustin" on Netflix🌟

After the crush of Thanksgiving, I’m back with a new movie review. 

In my film reviews, I start with the benchmark of five stars and then deduct half or one point if the film 

falls short in any of the following categories:

·  Storyline ·  Screenplay ·  Acting ·  Direction ·  Character Arcs

The reviews are my opinions alone.

Bayard Rustin in Washington (Artistic rendition by DALL-E)

Plot overview of Rustin 

Netflix's compelling “Rustin” unveils the crucial but often overshadowed role of activist Bayard Rustin in the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The film, set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, details Rustin's interactions with iconic figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, and Ella Baker. It's a profoundly emotional and educational portrayal, ideal for viewers fascinated by history and social change. “Rustin” also explores Rustin's personal life, including his relationships with Tom Kahn and the fictional Elias Taylor, showcasing the struggles he faced due to his sexuality in a prejudiced era. The movie depicts Rustin's resilience and determination, making it a standout historical drama on Netflix. 

Star-Studded Cast Highlights

Colman Domingo’s stellar portrayal of Rustin overshadows an equally talented cast, including Aml Ameen as MLK Jr., Chris Rock as Roy Wilkins, Glynn Turman as A. Phillip Randolph, and Jeffrey Wright as Adam Clayton Powell. Their performances add layers to this compelling narrative, creating a must-watch cinematic experience. 

 Behind-The-Scenes Insights 

Produced by the Obamas' Higher Ground, the film has an esteemed production background. Domingo's insights into playing Rustin highlight the film's commitment to highlighting overlooked historical figures, making “Rustin” a significant cultural piece.

In-Depth Commentary 

Directed by George C. Wolfe, “Rustin” is a fusion of passion and exceptional acting. Domingo's portrayal, supported by Johnny Ramey's impactful performance as Elias Taylor, is a testament to the film's depth. Despite its limited runtime, “Rustin” captures the essence of Rustin's life and legacy. 


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ 


A beautifully crafted narrative bringing to life a key figure in civil rights history


Excellently written


Precise and clean


Outstanding performances by the entire cast, particularly Domingo 

Character Arcs 

Deeply engaging and intricately crafted, especially in the roles of Rustin and Elias Taylor 

Bottom Line 

“Rustin” is an extraordinary film highlighting a significant yet overlooked figure in American history. Its exploration of themes like sexual orientation and race is both relevant and necessary. This film is more than entertainment; it's a vital piece of historical reflection, making it a must-watch on Netflix.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Happy December Down Time!

Ovidia--every other Tuesday

Warning: hotchpotch ahead!

I'm happily nursing a minor infection, meaning I've been skipping yoga, pilates and the final round of proofs (not due till 15th Dec) with a clear conscience. And I'm really enjoying this down time!

The timing is perfect, since all my 'big' projects for the year are done (apart from those proofs) and I'm enjoying short walks, short swims and just being alive.

And I just got a gift from Ms Manja, my drosera binata--

--it's the first time she's flowered and I hope it doesn't mean she's going dormant!

I've also been catching up on reading, though I've still barely made a dent in my TBR pile.

Most striking: Ken Liu's The Hidden Girl. 

I found it weird and wonderful and surprisingly easy to get into, even with my tired brain. Old Chinese myths, internment of Japanese Americans, choosing the Matrix... I'll need to come back to this. What I found strange was, even though much dealt with the drastic ramifications of continuing on paths we've already started on, it ultimately left me feeling hopeful, simply because bringing these things up and playing with them helps us all survive them.

The other book that struck me most was Melissa Broder's Death Valley:

I was afraid this was going to be a depressing read--the writer protagonist is caring for a chronically ill husband while her father is in the ICU and she's trying to write in a Best Western in the desert the book's named after--and there's her grief and her fear of death--not of the moment of death, but of non-existence, something I totally empathise with. But it was comforting and cathartic, I felt like I'd spent time with an old friend, her offbeat tangents, bathroom humour and poignant observations--how 'love' is sometimes more a verb than an emotion--returned me to my own life feeling reassured that we're all just trying to figure out the best way to live.

And... I treated myself to the new Moriarty audiobook!

I didn't like the premise (Holmes and Moriarty working together? No...) But I got it because: Helen Mirren. And yes, she sounds super and horribly villainous here!

I've been listening to it while my eyes and hands work on other stuff, so I don't know what I think of it yet--

This is the crochet project--I'm almost finished, now working on the first of two sleeves of what's going to be a Christmas present/ next year's office cardigan for the Beloved.

This one, the waffle knit cardigan, is for myself! (cotton yarn, good for wearing in air conditioned rooms over sleeveless tops/ dresses)

I know playing mahjong is supposed to be great for mental and physical dexterity, but I'm hoping that listening to audiobooks while handcrafting will deliver some good too.

And Christmas is coming! The Christmas lights are up--

And the air plants are sharing space with  Christmas ball ornaments!

Happy December everyone, I hope you all get some great refreshing and recharging time!

Monday, December 4, 2023

Potholes of Historical Fiction 1.0: Anachronisms

Annamaria on Monday


Anachronisms show up all too often in films that take place in the past: like that reflection of a white commercial van in the window of a store that was supposed to be in Victorian London.  Or that character in a drama set in ancient Rome, who raised his hand in salute and was wearing a wristwatch.


Most historical novelists are careful to portray what life was really like in the period of their stories.  Friends of mine and I have discussed what we go through to make sure of all the details.  Some of us even look up the phase of the moon for the date in the story.  One said, "Since everything else is made up, we have to make the setting as real as we can, so we can imagine being there."


Many of us fear being caught out by knowledgeable, and sometimes even picayune readers. For instance, a historical novelist friend once got an email from a reader with a complaint about her story, which takes place in Harlem in NYC in the 1920s. One of my friend’s characters, trying to unlock her apartment door while carrying several bags of groceries, dropped all her purchases on the floor.  One of the spilled items was a box of Rice Krispies.  The accusatory email came from a person who worked for the cereal’s manufacturer.  He allowed as how the novel’s story takes place in March, but Rice Krispies were not on sale until the following September.  As we writers of fiction are fond of saying, “You can’t make this stuff up.”


The hardest challenge of all, for me anyway, is the conflict between modern attitudes and beliefs that were considered acceptable in the past.  It takes a lot of thought and cleverness to present mores and customs gone-by in a way that modern readers can see their reprehensible nature.


In this regard, the most remarkable of historical novels to me is John Fowles's the French Lieutenant's Woman.  Somehow, Fowles manages seamlessly to interject his narrator’s opinions. The characters are walking along talking to each other, and all of a sudden, the narrator starts commenting on the kinds of things people believed, and even long descriptions of how things were and who thought what. I've spent hours, days even trying to work out how he gets away with that kind of behavior, which would be verboten for a novelist lacking his brilliance.  I would love to be able to do what he does. If anybody has the slightest idea of how to go about it, I can only say, “HELP!”


The best I can do is to invent characters who, though living at the time of the story, have plausible reasons not to share the prevailing attitudes of the time. This difficulty was most pronounced when writing about British East Africa at the beginning of the 20th century. I certainly did not want to present the rather romantic place as the good old days of colonialism.  Characters who all have today's attitudes would be anachronistic in the extreme. I got around that in the only way I could, by populating the stories with key people who legitimately disapproved of what the King's loyal empire builders thought was admirable.

It says "Britain's Little War With
 'Unknown savages..'"


My three main characters look around them and know that a lot of the things that are happening are wrong, sometimes downright evil.  My folks are, for one reason or another, outsiders:


Vera McIntosh is the 19-year-old daughter of a Scottish missionary, the only white child in the area where she was born. Her playmates where Kikuyu children. She grew up with them, playing and learning their ways. She speaks their language. And she can see the world from their point of view as well as that of her parents. Because her father is a missionary, he is also teaching her values that the members of the colonial administration do not share.


Kwai Libazo is a tribal constable, working for the British police force.  He is half Kikuyu and half Maasai. Neither tribe has accepted him. So in that sense, he is an outsider too. He is working with a young, idealistic Assistant Superintendent of Police, whose passion in his work is to try to deliver justice. Kwai begins to see delivering justice as the reason for his existence.


Justin Tolliver is the second son of a Yorkshire Earl, and as such, his fate from birth was to serve in the British military.  He first arrived in South Africa with his regiment, visited British East Africa while there, and has fallen in love with its beauty and majesty. He wants to stay. But he cannot take the normal path for an aristocrat because his impecunious family cannot stake him the price of starting his own farm, even at the low cost of doing so. In order to find a way to stay, he volunteers to be transferred from the army to the quasi-military police force. He is that idealistic policeman who inspires Kwai Libazo with his devotion to justice.  Once Tolliver begins to fall in love with Vera McIntosh, he learns how her attitudes are much more likely to deliver real justice.


Once they walked into my mind, these three early 20th century people gave me a way of telling my stories with 21st Century sensitivity.  In a sense, they are in conflict with the history they are living through.  



Saturday, December 2, 2023

One of These Guys Will Lose His Marbles



I’m not about to get into the history of the Parthenon Sculptures/Elgin Marbles controversy between Greece and Britain, but for those of you who might be interested, there’s a lot about the subject in the news these days. And why is that?

Essentially, it boils down to a politician putting his foot in his mouth or, more appropriately, shooting himself in his foot with his mouth. Which politician I leave for you to judge. 


This new squabble over the PS/EM hit the international news when British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, abruptly canceled a meeting with Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a decision prompted by their ongoing controversy over the 2,500-year-old Parthenon Sculptures.


Photo by Petros Giannakouris

Here’s a partial description of the facts of the row as put forth by
Ioannes Chountis de Fabbri, a political adviser to the UK House of Lords.


“From a strategic point of view, Sunak’s decision was not carefully considered and has largely backfired. It was a knee-jerk reaction, fueled by Mitsotakis’ unusual move to meet first with the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, and the former’s interview with the BBC, which for many was viewed as a lack of diplomatic tact. The move by Britain’s new foreign secretary, Lord David Cameron, to meet with his counterpart at the 11th hour, vindicates this. In the end, running away from a meeting is never a good idea and is rarely conducive to positive results. Be that as it may, the deeper truth might lie elsewhere. Simply put, it may be argued that Sunak tried to avoid – for the second time after December 2022 – the replay of what had transpired at 10 Downing Street when Prime Minister Mitsotakis raised the marbles issue before cameras, when he met with his then-counterpart Boris Johnson in November 2021.”


In Greece's newspaper, Roderick Beaton, a retired professor of modern Greek and Byzantine history, language and culture, is quoted as saying “regarding Sunak’s decision to cancel the meeting, I have an opinion and I say it out loud: In plain terms, I find it outrageous,” he said. “In more formal terms, this is definitely a huge diplomatic blunder, which for me remains, for now at least, inexplicable. There may be something lurking in the background that we don’t know, but from all the statements that are circulating I can’t understand the decision of the prime minister of Britain.”


But the battle didn’t stop there.  Here’s video of PM Sunak adding accelerant to the “dumpster fire,” by calling PM Mitsotakis “a grandstander” in Parliament.


Not unexpectedly, the press has found fertile fodder in all of this for its political cartoonists.


Photo by Ilias Makris

Photo by Ilias Makris

So, who wins this battle of the PMs?  Rather than my offering an opinion from the bleachers, let’s see what Britain’s King Charles has to say about it all. In this case, it’s a visual comment forcefully presented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai…in the midst of the PM row back home. 

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Take a close look at King Charles’ tie and pocket square.  Now a closer look. Yep, the tie and pocket handkerchief bear the colors and symbols of the Greek national flag !!!


I call that a drop-the-mike moment for Greece…and take it as a sign of strong support for a prompt (?) return of the Parthenon Sculptures.



Friday, December 1, 2023

Andrew, Ken and Robert.


Caravaggio's St Andrew on the cross.

It was St Andrews Day yesterday.  He was Andrew the Apostle, the one depicted with long white hair, a long beard, holding a scroll, usually with a saltire and a fishing net.

Yesterday was his feast day but all that really happens is the kids get a day off school.

He is the patron of many lands including Scotland – Ukraine, Greece, Russia, Romania and Barbados to name a few. He is the protector of fishermen and fishmongers, of rope-makers and farm workers.

He was killed by crucifixion on a cross of the form called crux decussata, an x-shaped cross, or "saltire", now commonly known as a "Saint Andrew's Cross". This was done at his own request as he deemed himself unworthy to be killed on a cross that was the same shape as that which Jesus had been crucified upon.

Obviously, the Saltire is our national flag. There are several stories of how the bones of St Andrew made their way to the east coast of Scotland, to a small town where St Andrews  is today.

Here’s an account from Wiki

“According to legendary accounts given in 16th-century historiography, Óengus II in AD 832 led an army of Picts and Scots into battle against the Angles, led by Æthelstan, near modern-day Athelstaneford, East Lothian. The legend states that he was heavily outnumbered and hence whilst engaged in prayer on the eve of battle, Óengus vowed that if granted victory he would appoint Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. On the morning of battle white clouds forming an X shape in the sky were said to have appeared. Óengus and his combined force, emboldened by this apparent divine intervention, took to the field and despite being inferior in numbers were victorious. Having interpreted the cloud phenomenon as representing the crux decussata upon which Andrew was crucified, Óengus honoured his pre-battle pledge and duly appointed Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. The white saltire set against a celestial blue background is said to have been adopted as the design of the flag of Scotland on the basis of this legend. However, there is evidence that Andrew was venerated in Scotland before this.”

So there you go, like everything else in Scottish history, the English and the Scots were fighting about something.

We were in St Andrews on Tuesday. To drive coast to coast took one hour forty five minutes.  A dear friend’s father, Kenneth Bruce, had passed away aged 94 and we made our way to say our final goodbye.

He was a fine man.

He smiled constantly. He was a marine engineer, those skills honed on the Clyde took him all over the world. Like his son, he was always up for a laugh and a giggle.  We had to phone his son once because we drove past Ken’s house and saw Ken up a ladder cutting his hedge. With a chain saw. He was 91 and half blind at the time. We got together and made an intervention.

It was our job during lockdown to get him his favourite whisky and smuggle it into his garden so he could collect it. We were not  in his bubble. We were in the bubble of his neighbour hence it was technically legal. Sort of.  Ken would sneak out in the cover of darkness with the two wee Westies, Toby and Rosie, to claim his prize while Joy kept watch from the patio doors incase the nosey neighbour on the other side reported them.

Anyway the point of all that was to celebrate the life well loved of one Scotsman, by using the words of another while in the place of the Saint.

Here’s the poem by Robert Burns, that was recited at the  funeral.  I think it says it all.

 “Epitaph on my own Friend”


An honest man here lies at rest,

As e’er God with His image blest:

The friend of man, the friend of truth;

The friend of age, and guide of youth:

Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,

Few heads with knowledge so inform’d:

If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;

If there is none, he made the best of this.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Wine Picker for a Day

Wendall -- every other Thursday

I just found a grape in my bra.


It’s small, dark blue, and intact. I take it out carefully, since it’s fallen down my shirt from the “Mother Vine,” said to be the oldest grapevine in California, and located at the historic San Gabriel Mission on the outskirts of Los Angeles. It was planted almost 250 years ago, long before anyone had thought about touring Napa Valley or Paso Robles. 


The root of the "Mother Vine."

From another angle...

My husband and I spent the morning picking grapes from this astonishing vine with other volunteers assisting the members of LAVA – the LA Vintners Association. The grapes down our clothes, the twigs and stems in our hair, and the purple stains on our fingers were all just part of the fun. 


Pruning the Mother Vine!

James in action.

Our fellow volunteers and vintners

Mark Blatty backs his truck in when we run out of ladders.

Sadly, we didn't get to stomp.

And it was nice to know we’d made a tiny contribution to the limited edition “Angelica” wine that comes from these grapes–-especially since the Mission receives part of the proceeds. 


They only make 300 bottles of the Angelica. This one, just released last week, is from the harvest we helped with in 2021.

This was the second time we’d brought stepladders and garden shears to help with the harvest. The first time, in 2021, the Mission itself was being restored after a fire. 


You can see the scaffolding on the left and fire damage on the right.

Now that’s done, and the church and the grounds are gorgeous and again open to the public. 


It’s part of the “California Mission Tour” and also very close to the Huntington Gardens, so if you are seeing the sites of LA, it’s really worth a visit. 


Everyone knows about California wines, but few know that the California wine industry actually started in downtown Los Angeles. In fact, the official seal of the City of LA, designed in 1905, includes a bunch of grapes, due to the many vineyards that flourished here in the 19th century, until a blight, then Prohibition, finished most of them off.

So it's only fitting that Downtown LA and Los Angeles County are now the focus of a whole new generation of devoted vintners who are making history all over again. 


LAVA was started by the The Angeleno Wine Company, Cavaletti Vineyards, and Byron Blatty Wines—all lovely people and all remarkably supportive of each other. They source wines from growers in greater Los Angeles County and often from vines that have been neglected for years—including one on the grounds of a high school.


We’ve been to a series of LAVA tastings and have also had lovely afternoons at the AWC winery on North Spring St. in LA and the Cavaletti tasting room in Moorpark. 


The Angeleno Wine Company winery and tasting room in Downtown LA.

The Cavaletti Wines tasting room in Moorpark.

We drank the AWC’s Goldline 2022 for Thanksgiving, and always save a bottle of Byron Blatty’s Evenfall for special  occasions, like finishing books...



Celebrating getting to the end of Cheap Trills.

It’s wonderful to have wine in our house that’s been made by people we actually know and like, the ultimate “winery to table” experience, and it’s another reason we’re lucky to live in the ever-surprising Los Angeles.