90 Movies in 90 Days: Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

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

Title: Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Release Date: 17 August 1979
Director: Terry Jones
Production Company: HandMade Films | Python (Monty) Pictures

Of the four Monty Python movies, this is the only one that is most thoroughly a story rather than a series of sketches.  It’s also the one that’s always rubbed me the wrong way. The movie is about Brian (Graham Chapman) who is born at the same place and time as Jesus Christ and is mistaken for the Messiah but crowds of eager followers.  Jesus comes off pretty good in this movie but the satire of religious people runs deep. The Pythons also skewer intellectual revolutionary movements who waste time on committee meetings and in-fighting.

There are definitely some brilliant parts such as the “blessed are the cheesemakers” scene, Latin instruction from the Roman centurion, “Biggus Dickus,” and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”  For some reason I always forget the scene where Brian ends up in a space battle. On the downside, a lot of the  crowds chasing Brian scenes and the crowds laughing at Pilate scenes are one note and just go on and on.  And then some parts have aged poorly, especially a scene where Reg (John Cleese) basically goes on a transphobic rant against Loretta (Eric Idle), which is sadly not too far removed from how an older, reactionary Cleese acts today.

I guess I can see why many people consider this the Pythons best movie, but while there are some great parts it’s still hit or miss for me.  I am happy to have learned a great story about Welsh actor Sue Jones-Davies who plays Judith in this movie.  Her hometown of Aberystwyth banned showing the movie, but in 2008 she became mayor, and oversaw the first screening of the movie the next year.

Rating: ***1/2

Friday Fictioneers – There is Hope


PHOTO PROMPT © Amanda Forestwood

Taraji felt the weight of the world. Bills.  Too many hours at work. Fleeting time with her children. No support from the ex.

Not to mention hate.


Climate change.




Taraji picked up her grandfather’s fiddle and played.

She played the music that carried her ancestors through the Depression.

She played the anthems of the striking workers who fought power and won.

She played the sounds of the marching feet of people demanding liberation.

She played until the weight of the world slipped away.

There is healing in music.

And in music there is hope.

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

90 Movies in 90 Days: El Mariachi (1992)

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

Title: El Mariachi
Release Date:September 15, 1992
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Los Hooligans Productions

Robert Rodriguez’s debut movie is a crime/action/thriller set in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Acuña. An aspiring mariachi musician (Carlos Gallardo) arrives hoping to find work playing for tips at one of the city’s bars.  At the same time, a gangster Azul (Reinol Martíne) comes to town with a plan to extract a very violent revenge on the drug kingpin Moco (Peter Marquardt). Both wear all black and a guitar case, and like an Alfred Hitchcock film, there are mistaken identities.

I didn’t expect to like this movie as much as I did with it’s reputation for graphic violence.  Rodriguez famously made this movie on a shoestring budget of $7000 and seemingly spent most of that money on squibs.  But the mariachi is a resourceful and likable character and gets support (and a  love interest) from the bartender Domino (Consuelo Gómez). Their chemistry is strong and their relationship feels real which lends credence to all the unreality around them.

Rating: ***1/2

50 Years, 50 Movies (1978): The Cat From Outer Space (1978)

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 1978:

  1. Grease
  2. Superman
  3. National Lampoon’s Animal House
  4. Every Which Way But Loose
  5. Heaven Can Wait

Best Picture Oscar Nominees and Winners of 1978:

  • The Deer Hunter
  • Coming Home
  • Heaven Can Wait
  • Midnight Express
  • An Unmarried Woman

Other Movies I’ve Reviewed from 1978:

Title: The Cat from Outer Space
Release Date: June 30, 1978
Director: Norman Tokar
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions

The whole 50 Years, 50 Movies project is in a sense autobiographical, so let’s go back to one of the earliest movies I remember seeing in the movie theater.  Star Wars may be the first movie I saw since it was released in 1977 but in my memory it came later (was it re-released in summer 1978?).  In 1978, I remember seeing Heaven Can Wait, Superman, and the Radio City Music Hall premiere of The Magic of Lassie.  I also remembered not being able to see Grease because I was grounded (I didn’t miss much).  But even though I only saw it once as a 4-year-old, I’ve always held a fondness for The Cat from Outer Space.

Well, it’s as cheezy as you might expect from a 1970s Disney movie and stylistically hasn’t changed much since Blackbeard’s Ghost.  Released shortly after Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the special effects are lacking, but they’re not really trying to be a special-effects spectacular.  See, there’s this alien cat, nicknamed Jake (played by Rumpler and Amber and voiced by Ronnie Schell), who makes an emergency landing on Earth.  He reveals himself to scientist Frank Wilson (Ken Berry) for assistance in repairing his spacecraft.  In turn, Frank brings in two other scientists, the inveterate gambler Norman Link (McLean Stevenson) and his romantic interest Liz Bartlett (Sandy Duncan).  Meanwhile they are being pursued by the military under General Stilton (Harry Morgan) and an industrial spy named Stallwood (Roddy McDowall).

The movie holds up better than expected and I love Jake the space cat, and Duncan and Stevenson’s performances are charming.  I’m also amused that Stevenson and Morgan are both M*A*S*H veterans playing characters similar to the tv show.  The movie runs a little long and a whole section in which Jake uses his powers to help the win money gambling could be pared down significantly.  But I feel that in the right hands, and with a more charismatic lead actor, The Cat From Outer Space could be remade today as an excellent family film.

Rating: ***



Book Review: It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism by Bernie Sanders and John Nichols

Author: Bernie Sanders and John Nichols
Title: It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism
Narrator: Bernie Sanders
Publication Info:  Crown (2023)

The latest book from America’s beloved socialist grandpa has a provocative title.  So I was a little disappointed when a good chunk of the book was a memoir of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, helping to get Joe Biden elected, and a frustrating two years where the Democratic party failed to take advantage of their congressional majority to advance a progressive agenda.  Basically it’s a sequel to Our Revolution.  Mind you, I have great memories of attending a Sanders’ presidential rally on Boston Common, which was the last big crowd I stood in before the pandemic started.

But the title implied that this was going to be more of an analysis of what is going wrong in our country/world and how to fix it.  And it does get down to it eventually with a good synthesis on how the corporate and wealthy elites have created intense economic inequality.  The solutions, of course, are the many proposals that he and others have been putting forward, many based on what has worked in other nations as well as in the United States past.  It’s all very well-written, but also not anything particularly new to me, as I’m the choir to Bernie’s preacher.  I’m not sure if their is an audience who is not aware of these solutions already who would be receptive to hearing it from Senator Sanders (because believe it or not,  our beloved socialist grandpa is not loved by all).  But if there is, this would be a good primer for them!

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2



50 Years, 50 Albums (2014): Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!

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 2014:

  1. 1989 – Taylor Swift
  2. Frozen – soundtrack
  3. x – Ed Sheeran
  4. Ghost Stories – Coldplay
  5. In the Lonely Hour – Sam Smith

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 2014:

  • Morning Phase – Beck
  • In the Lonely Hour – Sam Smith
  • BEYONCÉ – Beyoncé
  • x – Ed Sheeran
  • G I R L – Pharrell Williams

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 2014:


Album: Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Artist: Against Me!
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Label: Total Treble, Xtra Mile
Favorite Tracks:

  • Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  • True Trans Soul Rebel
  • Osama bin Laden as the Crucified Christ
  • Dead Friend
  • Paralytic States

Thoughts: By happy coincidence, this review comes just a few days before Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31).  This is the 6th album for the Florida punk rock band Against Me! but the first after the band’s lead vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender.  Naturally the lyrics deal with Grace’s gender dysphoria and transition as well as the not always supportive response of the punk community.  These songs really rock, a style of melodic punk I really enjoy, topped with the growl of Grace’s voice.

Rating: ****

90 Movies in 90 Days: Boy and the World (2013)

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

Title: Boy and the World
Release Date: September 20, 2013
Director: Alê Abreu
Production Company: Filme de Papel

In this vividly-animated film from Brazil that sometimes resembles the artwork of Eric Carle, a small boy named Cuca discovers the harsh realities of the world. Life is idyllic for Cuca in his rural home until his father has to leave home to work in the city.  Cuca decides to look for his father and ends up on an adventure that takes him from farms to futuristic cities to industrial hellscapes.  The movie carries a strong message about the exploitation of labor, repressive government, and environmental degradation wrapped in visually-stunning animation. It wows you with awe and it makes you cry.

Rating: ****1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: For All Mankind (1989)

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

Title: For All Mankind
Release Date: November 1, 1989
Director: Al Reinert
Production Company: Apollo Associates

I’ve watched a lot of documentaries about the Apollo missions to the moon, including Earthrise, Apollo 11, and Apollo: Missions to the Moon, and always learn something new. This documentary was made in 1989 for the anniversary of the first moon landing included a lot of footage never before released to the public (and footage I haven’t seen reused in other documentaries). It also features a sharp soundtrack from Brian Eno.

There are some artistic decisions made that make it a fascinating film but less likely to be informative to people who don’t know a lot about the Apollo program.The film is edited to follow the timeline of a mission to the moon but uses footage from all of the missions.  Similarly, the movie is narrated by the voices of astronauts and mission control but with no indication of who is speaking (unless you’re like me and watch with closed captions on).  The feeling it gives is that it’s one big mission to the moon and we’re all on it.

Rating: ****

Song of the Week: “Grey Eagle” by Mighty Poplar

Mighty Poplar – “Grey Eagle”

“Grey Eagle” is a new track from bluegrass quintet Mighty Poplar.  The great thing about a new bluegrass tune is that it doesn’t sound all that different from an old bluegrass tune, and that’s great.  You can read more about Mighty Poplar, a supergroup of musicians from bands I’m not actually familiar with, in this article from NPR Music.

Songs of the Week for 2023




90 Movies in 90 Days: The Go-Go’s (2020)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less. It’s a goal increasingly unlikely to be met, but I persevere.

Title: The Go-Go’s
Release Date: January 24, 2020
Director: Alison Ellwood
Production Company: Fine Point Films | PolyGram Entertainment

This is a bog standard rock documentary with lots of archival footage intercut with talking head interviews with the subjects in the present day.  That said, the archival footage is pretty good, the interviews feature candid thoughts, and this is the story of The Go-Go’s, an amazing band that I nevertheless didn’t know much about before. The Go-Go’s rose out of the late 70s Los Angeles punk scene to hit it big in the early 80s as groundbreakers in New Wave music and women in rock in general.

The band hit it big right at the point in my childhood when I was at the age that I started paying attention to popular music so I feel lucky that I never knew a time when a woman’s rock band didn’t exist. The Go-Go’s were the first all-woman rock band where they wrote their own songs, played their own instruments, and hit Number One on the Billboard album charts (an accomplishment that they still hold alone).  You will be reminded of this fact numerous times while watching this documentary.  But as great as this accomplishment it is, the weight of being a Go-Go was heavy on all the band’s members as they were forced into an endless cycle of touring and promotion.

The band’s problems are not an unusual story in rock and roll.  Drummer Gina Schock and bassist Kathy Valentine seemed to be hurt most in the process as they resented that the songwriters – guitarist Charlotte Caffey and rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin – made a lot more money from publishing rights, or that lead vocalist Belinda Carlisle got a lot more popular attention.  Original members of the Go-Go’s Margot Olavarria and Elissa Bello are also interviewed about the unfortunate manner in which they were dismissed for more talented musicians.  Substance abuse is also a problem. It took the arrival of Paula Jean Brown in 1985 as a substitute for Wiedlin for someone to recognize that Caffey had a serious heroin addiction.

Much like the Pixies, the members of the band are just not able to communicate with another which allows problems to exacerbate.  Even in the present day interviews it is clear that they haven’t worked out their problem even though the band has reunited several times.  The documentary says very little about anything after The Go-Go’s initial breakup in 1985 (and doesn’t even mention that they recorded an album in 2001).  Its a bummer that such a great band ended up having such a short initial run.  Imagine if they had been still been together as elder stateswomen for the alternative music boom in the 1990s?  Nevertheless, The Go-Go’s were a great band for the time they had and this documentary makes me appreciate them all the more.

Rating: ***1/2