90 Movies in 90 Days: Blood Tea & Red String

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Blood Tea & Red String
Release Date: February 2, 2006
Director: Christiane Cegavske
Production Company:Adler & Associates Entertainment | Salami Studios

This bizarre fairy tale story told through stop-motion animation features a conflict over a doll between the Creatures Who Dwell Under the Oak (who look to me like wingless bats with the beaks of crows) and aristocratic mice.  It’s equal parts fascinating and disturbing.  Fans of Alice and Wolf House should enjoy this.

Rating: ***

50 Years 50 Movies (1996): Get On the Bus

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to watch and review one movie from each year of my life.  The only qualification is that it has to be a movie I’ve not reviewed previously.


Top Grossing Movies in 1996:

  1. Independence Day
  2. Twister
  3. Mission: Impossible
  4. The Rock
  5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Best Picture Oscar Nominees and Winners in 1996:

  • The English Patient
  • Fargo
  • Jerry Maguire
  • Secrets & Lies
  • Shine

Other Movies I’ve Reviewed from 1996:

Title: Get On the Bus
Release Date: October 16, 1996
Director: Spike Lee
Production Company:Columbia Pictures | 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks

On October 16, 1995, Black men from across the United States converged on Washington, DC for the Million Man March. I remember this being a huge historical event at the time, but it doesn’t seem to have left a large cultural footprint in retrospect.  Spike Lee’s film Get on the Bus dramatizes the Million Man March through the perspectives of several men traveling on a charter bus from Los Angeles to Washington, DC.  This is a loooooong trip, and long-distance bus trips tend to be tedium punctuated by napping.  Thankfully this is a Spike Lee film so the characters have a lot to say.

The ensemble cast has so many characters that some of them are just archetypes like “the conspiracy theory guy” and a member of the Nation of Islam who never speaks.  But we do get to know some of the other characters better, including:

  • Jeremiah (the always amazing Ossie Davis) – an intelligent and caring elderly man who becomes kind of a father figure for the group.
  • Evan (Thomas Jefferson Byrd) and his teenage son Evan Jr. aka Smooth ( De’Aundre Bonds) who are handcuffed together on a court order because Smooth was charged with petty theft.
  • Kyle (Isaiah Washington) and Randall (Harry J. Lennix), a gay couple whose relationship is falling apart.
  • Flip (Andre Braugher), an aspiring actor with a big ego who likes to stir up controversy.
  • Gary Rivers (Roger Guenveur Smith, a mixed race man with light skin who is a police officer.
  • X (Hill Harper), a young film student shooting a documentary.
  • Jamal (Gabriel Casseus), a former gangster who converted to Islam and now works with at-risk youth.

Although there are some heavy-handed monologues, the movie avoids being too didactic.  Instead you really get the feel that this is a cross-section of Black Americans coming together and the characters are really changed for the better by their experiences together.  There’s a lot of great acting talent in this movie but it never feels like you’re watching a bunch of actors but real people discussing their real problems.  Lee also makes good use of the closed confines of the bus as a crucible.

Rating: ****

90 Movies in 90 Days: Mars One (2022)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Mars One
Release Date: 20 January 2022
Director: Gabriel Martins
Production Company: Filmes de Plástico and Brazilian public funding

This slice-of-life drama depicts a tumultuous period in the lives of a Black Brazilian family in Belo Horizonte just after the election of Jair Bolsonaro.  The father Wellington (Carlos Francisco) is a recovering alcoholic who’s been sober for four years and works as a landscaper and pool cleaner.  He has aspirations for his children but doesn’t take into account their desires.  Mother Tercia (Rejane Faria) is the family mediator, and also suffers from a trauma response after being caught in a TV practical joke show’s fake explosion.  An ensuing series of misfortunes lead her to feel she is cursed.  Daughter Eunice (Camilla Damião) is almost fully grown and begins a romantic relationship with another young woman, Joana (Ana Hilãrio).  She worries about coming out to her conservative parents and considers moving out on her own.  The younger child Deivinho (Cícero Lucas) is pushed by Wellington to excel at football, but actually desires to study astrophysics and participate in the Mars One mission.

Mars One is beautifully filmed and acted. Thee social realism is reminiscent of films like Sorry We Missed You, combining family drama with the damaging effects of capitalism and reactionary politics.

Rating: ****

Song of the Week: “All of the Time in the World to Kill” by The Milk Carton Kids

The Milk Carton Kids – “All of the Time in the World to Kill”

The new song from California indie folk duo The Milk Carton Kids manages to be both melancholy and uplifting at the same time, with absolutely gorgeous harmonies.

Songs of the Week for 2023



#FridayFictioneers – The Fair Pole

It was the bottom of the 5th in an otherwise uneventful game between the Tigers and the Royals when fans in the right field bleachers noticed something out of the ordinary. A viral TikTok post summed it up: “Holy crap! The foul pole’s become sentient!”

In an interviews with KSHB News, the pole noted “When a fly ball hits me it’s a homerun so I’m actually a fair pole.”

Seeking greater fulfillment in life than watching baseball games and with a keen sense of right and wrong, the fair pole was later appointed a judge at the Jackson County Courthouse.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly photo prompt flash fiction challenge on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Addicted to Purple blog.  See additional stories by other writers here!

50 Years, 50 Albums (2001): Little Sparrow by Dolly Parton

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously.


Top Grossing Albums of 2001:

  1. M!sundaztood – P!nk
  2. Laundry Service – Shakira
  3. Songs in A Minor – Alicia Keys
  4. Escape – Enrique Iglesias
  5. Silver Side Up – Nickelback

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 2001:

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 2001:

Album: Little Sparrow
Artist: Dolly Parton
Release Date: January 23, 2001
Label: Sugar Hill | Blue Eye
Favorite Tracks:

  • Little Sparrow
  • Seven Bridges Road
  • A Tender Lie
  • Marry Me
  • Down From Dover
  • In the Sweet By and By

Thoughts: Dolly Parton was already in the fifth decade of her career as a recording artists when she released this album compiling the many styles of music from her childhood home in the mountains of East Tennessee.  Dolly’s sweet voice sparkles in songs arranged as bluegrass, Appalachian folk, and country gospel.  Half of the songs are originals composed by Dolly (including re-recording of older songs like “Down From Dover”) while the rest of the album includes some inspired interpretations of songs such as Collective Soul’s “Shine”, the Eagles’ “Seven Bridges Road”, and Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You.” Guest artists include Nickel Creek, Alison Krauss, and members of Irish folk music band Altan. Oddly enough, back in 2001 I was deep in my folk and bluegrass phase in 2001 and would’ve loved this album then.  Better late than never!

Rating: ****



90 Movies in 90 Days: Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Three Thousand Years of Longing
Release Date: August 26, 2022
Director: George Miller
Production Company: FilmNation Entertainment | Elevate Production Finance | Sunac Culture | Kennedy Miller Mitchell

Dr. Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is a scholar of storytelling who travels to Istanbul for a conference.  While there she acquires an antique glass bottle and while cleaning it naturally releases the Djinn (Idris Elba) trapped within it who offers her three wishes. In her hotel room, the Djinn shares three stories of his past while Alithea remains skeptical about making wishes.

The movie combines philosophy, fantasy, and romance as two of the great actors of our time converse interspersed with visually and narratively inventive stories.  The movie could’ve been judiciously trimmed at parts but overall I found it enchanting.  It’s a shame that it bombed at the box office but I hope more people discover it through streaming.  George Miller is quite the eclectic writer/director to make this his follow-up to Mad Max: Fury Road.

Rating: ***1/2


Book Review: Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott

Author: Cavan Scott
Title: Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Publication Info: Random House Audio, June 29, 2001

Picking up where The Light of the Jedi ends, the story centers on the Republic Fair where Chancellor Lina Soh hopes to make a statement on the growing Galactic Republic’s unity.  Meanwhile, Marchion Ro, the leader of loose organization of marauders faces dissension within his ranks and organizes an attack of the fair.  The better part of the book is an action-filled depiction of the Jedi fighting the Nihil and hoping to protect the Republic citizens.  The book ends with a startling revelation that hearkens a darker future.

I had a couple of quibbles with this book.  One is that it still feels like there are a  lot of characters and I’m having trouble connecting with all these different Jedi and their allies.  That may be just be a “me thing” though.  I am growing fond of Bell Zettifar, the Jedi apprentice who cuts himself of from the Force when mourning the loss of his Master.  The other problem with this book is that it has a middle-of-a-trilogy feel to it where it’s just spinning its wheels until it can get to the revelation that sets up the final book.  But overall it’s a fun read.

Rating: ***

90 Movies in 90 Days: Good Night Oppy (2022)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Good Night Oppy
Release Date: November 4, 2022
Director: Ryan White

This ambitious documentary tells the story of the twin  rovers – Spirit and Opportunity – landed on Mars in January 24 with the mission of exploring the planet for 90 sols (Mars days).  Remarkably, the persistent little robots went above and beyond with Spirit lasting over 6 years, and Opportunity ceasing transmission after 15 years! Narrated by Angela Bassett, the documentary features archival footage from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory operations facility and interviews with the scientists and engineers who made the mission possible. A running theme of movie is how the rover’s had an anthropomorphic appearance and the personal connection that the NASA crew formed with them.  Visual effects recreate what it may have looked like for the rovers on Mars. Industrial Light & Magic (founded by George Lucas) and Amblin Entertainment (founded by Steven Spielberg) were involved in the film’s production, so you can imagine the types of special effects used to illustrate this real-life adventure.

Rating: ***1/2

50 Years, 50 Movies (1975): Picnic at Hanging Rock

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to watch and review one movie from each year of my life.  The only qualification is that it has to be a movie I’ve not reviewed previously.


Top Grossing Movies of 1975:

  1. Jaws
  2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  3. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  4. Shampoo
  5. Dog Day Afternoon

Best Picture Oscar Nominees and Winners of 1975:

Other Movies I’ve Reviewed from 1975:

Title: Picnic at Hanging Rock
Release Date: August 8, 1975
Director: Peter Weir
Production Company: B.E.F. Film Distributors | South Australian Film Corporation | Australian Film Commission | McElroy & McElroy | Picnic Productions

Picnic at Hanging Rock asks a lot of questions.  What happened to the girls and teacher who disappeared while exploring Hanging Rock?  Is there some hidden power within the geologic feature itself? Is Miranda (Anne-Louise Lambert) an angel, Botticelli or otherwise?  Does Mrs. Appleyard (Rachel Roberts) kill a girl?  Is this based on a true story?

The film does not provide any answers (although I can tell you the answer to the last one: no, it is a completely fictional story based on a 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay). On Valentine’s Day 1900, the girls of Mrs. Appleyard’s private school visit Ngannelong (a natural volcanic formation in Victoria, Australia known as Hanging Rock by the colonizers).  During their languid picnic, four girls lead by Miranda seek to do some geologic investigation by climbing the rock.  Only one of them returns, the rest seemingly lead by a hidden force to continue on.  A teacher who goes looking for the girls also goes missing.

The picnic only makes up the first act of the film.  The rest of the story focuses on the repercussions of four missing people on the school and its students and staff.  There’s also the odd obsession of Michael Fitzhubert (Dominic Guard), a wealthy young Englishman who doesn’t even know the girls, but continues to search for them.  Like the earlier Australia-based film Walkabout, this movie explores an underlying conflict of Europeans with the Australian land and its spirits.  It also reminds me of the Soviet film Stalker in that Hanging Rock is a place with a mysterious power.

Picnic at Hanging Rock takes advantage of the natural beauty of Australia in its gorgeous, dreamlike cinematography.  I’m glad I got to see this on a big screen at The Brattle Theatre on the day after Valentine’s Day.

Rating: ****