what is yours is not yours

Books and Roses:

A baby girl named Montse, is left at a monastery door.  She has a key around her neck.  Years later, Montse works as a clothes launderer with a woman with a similar key around her neck.  Is there a relationship between the two keys?  Is there a relationship between the two women?

Sorry Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea:

A guy named Ched asks his friend to housesit while he goes off to do his military sevice.   The house sitter has a boyfriend with two kids, Dayang, who is serious, and Aisha, who has a crush on a German pop star named Matyas Fust.   Matyas gets involved in a scandal.  Is the scandal true?  Does Aisha stay loyal to Matyas?

Is Your Blood As Red As This?  No

A girl named Radha meets an older woman named Myrna, at a party, and becomes a puppeteer like Myrna is, to impress Myrna.  Does Myrna return Radha’s feelings?  Is Radha’s puppetry career a success?


A man named Arkady lives in a country run by a dictator. To protest the dictator’s rule, and to pay off his growing debt, Arkady and his friend Giancomo plan to kidnap the dictator’s daughter and hold her for ransom.  How does the kidnapping plot go?


Jill Ackerman and her husband Jacob experiment with something called the Presence, which is supposed to bring a spiritual presence into the life of the person who tries it.  Jill volunteers, does a presence enter her life?

A Brief History of The Homely Wench Society 

Dayang Sharif is a college student at Cambridge University, and she wants to join a club called the Homely Wench Society.  This club is a counterweight to the all-men’s Bettencourt Society which is seen as chauvinistic, and generally hostile to women. One day Dayang meets Hercules Demetriou, who’s a member of the Bettencourt Society but doesn’t tell her. Does Dayang join the Homely Wench Club, does she find out the truth about Hercules?

Dorninca and the St Martin’s Day Goose:

Dornica goes up to the top of Mount Radhost in the Czech Republic to visit a statue of a wolf.  The wolf statue talks to Dornica and says he wants someone to eat, and despite Dornica’s red hood, he passes on her and says he wants someone younger.  What does Dornica do to satiate the wolf statue’s hunger?


Freddy Barrendorf Checks In

Everybody expects Freddy Barrendorf to follow in his father’s footsteps, and become a hotel maintenance man, does Freddy follow in his dad’s footsteps?

If A Book Is Locked, There’s probably a good reason for it, don’t you Think?

New employee Eva sends tongues wagging at her new job, with her New York sense of style and cool manner.  Tongues are wagging for a different reason as rumors circulate about Eva and a married man.  Then, one of the employees finds Eva’s diary, does she open it and confirm the rumors or return it to Eva?


What Is Yours Is Not Yours is a collection of short stories.  Ms. Oyeyemi is fond of literary flourishes, large words, symbolism, recurring characters, recurring themes and tangential subplots.  These are all things critics and literary agents adore, but it may alienate the average reader.  For example, she gets so enamored of a tangential portion of the story in  Sorry Doesn’t Sweeten The Tea, that she forgets the main story entirely.

Books And Roses is a pretty good story, but again there is so much of a backstory and so much exposition, that it makes for difficult reading.  Reading a book should not be a chore, and some of this book seems like work and not pleasure.  There are other stories that get so caught up in the technicalities of the task she is describing, that the point of the story is lost.  A story about puppetry might be interesting, but not the way she wrote it.

Sometimes the recurring themes of books and keys and locks seem to be forced into the story, just to keep the thematic consistency going.  And most of the characters show up in different stories, for example Dayang shows up in at least two stories if not more, Aisha shows up in multiple stories, and it’s maddening.  They just seem to make cameos in other stores, for no reason, another frustrating flourish.

There are good stories in this collection, A Brief History of The Homely Wench Society is good story, simple, direct, to the point. And the characters have a definite point of view.  In fact, I’d say more than half of the stories are very good, but even in the stories I liked, the endings are weak or abrupt or don’t match the tone of the story that came before it.  I’ve read her work before, Mr. Fox, and I had the same complaint, it was too metaphorical, too symbolic, almost like a bedtime story with some deeper meaning.

Ms. Oyeyemi is talented, but her writing is too lyrical, she needs to tell a story in more prosaic language, beginning middle and end.  Sometimes, the simplest way to tell a story is the best way.

Short stories, not for short attention spans.


three billbords

Mildred (Frances McDormand) works in a gift shop in Ebbing Missori. Her daughter Angela, (Katherine Newton) is raped and murdered, and 7 months after her murder, there has been no progress in finding Angela’s killer.  Desperate to keep the story in the public eye, Mildred pays 5,000 dollars to local ad man Red Welby (Caleb  Landry Jones) questioning the pace of the investigation, and the person heading the investigation, Chief Willoughby. (Woody Harrelson)  Most of the town is sympathetic with Mildred’s loss, but they also love and respect their chief. A local dentist, named Geoffrey (Jerry Winsett)  who doesn’t like the tries to take revenge on Mildred by drilling her tooth without and anesthetic, but Mildred  turns the drill on Geoffrey instead and turns the drill on Geoffrey’s thumb.  Willoughby’s deputy, Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is a rogue cop on the verge of losing his temper at any moment,  and he hates the billboards.  Mildred is put in jail, doe the drill incident, her friend Denise, (Amanda Warren) is put in jail for minor drug possession, things seem to be spiraling downward for Mildred, but then Chief Willoughby does something that shocks the entire town.  What does Willoughby do?  Does it move the investigation of Angela’s murder any closer to resolution?

Three Billboards is a really good movie, for the first hour.  The first hour pits a grieving mother against a small town police force and had it continued with that theme and that tone, it would have won the Best Picture Oscar. But the things that Chief Willoughby does, the things that Dixon does and the things that Mildred does and plans to do, drive the story off the rails and into the fertile imagination of a screenwriter.  In other words, it bears no resemblance to reality.  The ending is disastrous and maybe ever dangerous, the ending actually feeds into the pervasive nature of America’s gun culture.

Despite the faltering script, the acting is superb. Frances McDormand is one of the best actresses in Hollywood and she showed why.  Her raw emotions were on full display, anger, sorrow, pain, grit, Mildred will do anything to find out who killed her daughter.   This is a masterful performance, she absolutely deserved the Oscar.  Woody Harrelson gives another in a long line of great performances, he underplays Willoughby perfectly, he’s serene, but underneath, he’s a seething cauldron of emotion. Sam Rockwell plays Dixon a little too close to Wild Bill in The Green Mile.  I don’t know if he deserved an Oscar, but he got one.

There’s not much to say about the direction.  The director is Martin McDonagh, he also wrote this movie so he’s the guy to blame for the script as well as the slow pacing.  He gets good performances, but with this cast, doesn’t need much help.  McDonaugh also directed the headache-inducing In Bruges, so that doesn’t help him with me.

Three Billboards:  Don’t ad this to your collection.


In June 2015, In Austin Texas, 26 year old elementary schoolteacher Breaion King was stopped in a parking lot for speeding.  She should have been given a ticket and sent on her way, that is not what happened.

Organizations like Black Lives Matter, which rose up after the killing of Travon Martin, are controversial in some circles.  This documentary tries to explain why organizations like Black Lives Matter exist, and why they are an important part of the discussion on police use of force.  The documentary interviews Ms. King and sheds light into her background, and shows the dashcam video of the incident from three different police vehicles.

The dashcam video is unspeakably powerful and speaks volumes about what happened in this case, but I think where it falls short is that it doesn’t present any information about the police officer who reacted to this call.  What made him react this way, why was he in that situation?  Why did other officers make certain comments that added to the controversy?  There wasn’t any background information on the officer or the police department in question.  A little more background on the officer might have given insight into what kind of man would perpetrate the things viewers see on the dashcam video. It is a very short documentary, 32 minutes in length,  the lack of length works against the documentary’s narrative maybe a  little more material would have given more insight into the overall situation.

As it is, Traffic Stop is a powerful story that illustrates the adage.  Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.  People should watch this documentary if only to spend some time walking in somebody else’s shoes, and see that sometimes, working hard and playing by the rules is simply not enough.

I doubt if this documentary will change viewers minds about police use of force or organizations like Black Lives Matter, we live in too polarized a society right now, but viewers should still be disturbed by what happens in the dashcam video, and that video is enough to make this documentary worth watching.   The most chilling message is that if this could happen to Ms. King,  it could happen to anyone.

Traffic Stop:  Stop Look and Listen to this documentary.


black panther

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is preparing to ascend to the crown to Wakanda.  T’Challa failed to stop the murder of his father, T’Chaka (John Cani) and now has to prepare to fight  M’baku (Winston Duke) from the rival Jabari tribe to complete the traditional rites and claim the crown for himself,  T’challa wins the contest. T’Challa drinks a potion made from a purple herb to give him the strength to be the Black Panther.

Unbeknownst to the outside world, Wakanda has the has the world’s largest supply of vibranium, the world’s strongest metal , which the Wakandans use in everything including their cutting edge technology.  Wakanda has chosen not to share the vibranium or the technology with the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the world isn’t interested in Wakanda and their vibranium.

In England, Erik Stevens, (Michael B. Jordan) and Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) steal a Wakandan artifact from the British National Museum, and plan to sell the artifact to a buyer in South Korea.  T’Challa is alerted to  the sale and plans to stop it.  He takes along, Nakia (Lupita N’yongo) aWakandan spy, and social worker, Okoye, (Danai Gurira) head of the palace guard, and T’challa’s former lover, and Shuri, (Letitia Wright) N’challa’s sister, and gadget whiz. As Stevens and Klaue meet up with CIA agent, Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) T’challa and his entourage try to break up the deal and fail.   Later Erik comes to Wakanda, and he has a surprise for T’challa and the ruling family in Wakanda. What is it?

Black Panther is a good but flawed movie that has a lot of good going for it and some not so good going for it. The idea of an African nation being at the forefront of wealth and technological expertise is a fantastic one and it was fully explored in this movie like none before or since.  This movie was also a platform for black grievances as voiced by Erik Stevens, his solutions might have been radical, but the frustrations with establishment politicians or rulers, even if they rule beneficently, are very real. Again, this was a first for a major studio movie.  It also deals with abandonment issues and how the person affected deals with it.  This is unfortunately an issue that many children are forced to deal with. The four strong women taking a central role in this film is a major step forward for women, and women of color in film.  There were also some references to the current administration in Washington DC, which were done subtly enough to not cause a stir.

The movie did have its flaws.  The movie was undoubtedly trying to pay homage to African culture, but sometimes it wandered into territory where it might have reinforced some negative African stereotypes. Was it really necessary to show a character wearing a lip plate so prominently? I’ve seen lip plates on Africans in cartoons from the 1930’s and those aren’t the most culturally sensitive portrayals of Africans.  It wasn’t necessary to show Wakandan warriors riding rhinos either.  The denouement is also disappointing, this would have been a great time to show an ending of reconciliation, which played an important role in the healing of tensions in countries like South Africa, and still eludes Zimbabwe, but Black Panther settles for a traditional resolution of conflict.  There is also a conventional overreliance on violence which is growing tiresome in this genre.

Despite any shortcomings in the script, the acting is superb.  Chadwick Boseman plays T-challa with an understated grace that befits a head of state.  He continues to have a growing list of really well played roles, Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get On Up and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall.  Lupita N’yongo was also understated in her performance as T’challa’s love interest and spy Nakia   She has a strong presence in this role, if not a lot of lines. She is also piling up the interesting character roles.  12 Years A Slave, the underrated Queen of Katwe, the latest star Wars films and now Black Panther. Danai Gurira steals the movie as the headstrong and physically strong head of the palace guard, she wants to protect the newly crowned king, but also is jealous of Nakia, there’s a lot of complexity in her role and she pulls it off. Michael B. Jordan plays the antagonist with the urgency of an instant gratification loving American, he doesn’t want incremental change, he wants change right away.  And he will do whatever it takes to get it, it was a surprisingly strong performance.  Andy Serkis plays another bad guy, and has a ball doing it.  Martin Freeman plays a dull character and doesn’t add much to him, except a passable American accent.  This cast makes a good movie better.

The director Ryan Coogler, directed Fruitvale Station, which I liked a lot, and Creed, which I have not seen, did a really good job with the pacing, This is a 2 hour 14 minute movie, that did not lag, drag or slow down at all. The first scene should have been placed later in the movie to add to the suspense but other than that the direction was first rate.  Coogler also got great performances from a very talented cast.

Black Panther One cool cat.



Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a chicken roaster for Costco.  He lives with his mother, Patty (Miranda Richardson) in Boston.  For Patriot’s Day, Jeff wants to support his ex-girlfriend, Erin (Tatiana Maslany) who is running the Boston Marathon.  Unfortunately, on this Patriot’s Day in 2013, terrorists set off pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and Jeff was severely hurt by the blast, losing both legs in the attack.  Jeff’s future is uncertain, but he decides to get prosthetic legs.  The pressures of sudden fame begin to affect Jeff, he is asked to wave a flag at a Boston Bruins Stanley Cup game, and the roar of the crowds, and flashing lights, make him flash back to the day of the marathon.  Erin is wracked with guilt because Jeff was at the Boston Marathon to support her.  Erin decides to stay and help Jeff, but she is unsure of their future together. Patty sees Jeff’s injuries as a chance to meet famous people and gain fame and money.

Jeff becomes filled with doubts, why did he survive, is he a hero?  Will Erin come back to him, or does she pity him because of his injuries?  He starts missing rehabilitation appointments, and doesn’t really seem committed to recovering his mobility. Then Erin visits Jeff with some news, what is the news?  Does the news change Jeff’s mindset?

This is an instant classic because it’s a bracingly real look at the life rehabilitation of a double amputee.  It shows the viewer all the hardships that Jeff has to face, including things that most people take for granted like taking a shower, or going to the bathroom.  This film pulls no punches, it doesn’t glamorize Jeff, or make his family perfect, or perfectly capable of understanding Jeff’s physical and emotional needs.  The film understands that the consequences of becoming a double amputee also falls on the caretakers, and that can cause a lot of stress in a family.  This is a hard movie to watch at times, but it is worth the emotional rollercoaster ride, because all the emotions feel so real.  The ending may seem a little Hollywood, but not blatantly so.

This is probably Jake Gyllenhaal’s best film.  He plays Jeff as a complex, multi-layered human being.  Jeff is a nice guy, but not perfect, he caused his girlfriend to break up with him three times.  He’s a guy who hasn’t grown up yet, but has this huge weight thrust on him.  The viewer sees the doubts creep up in Gyllenhaal’s eyes, hear the doubts in his quivering voice, it’s a masterfully understated performance.   Thankfully, his Boston accent is also understated. Tatiana Masaly plays a character filled with guilt, but Erin is no shrinking violet, she expresses her anger and frustration with Jeff and his family regularly.  Her performance makes the movie more interesting to watch.  Miranda Richardson is an interesting character, not a bad woman, but always someone with an angle, trying to exploit what happened to her son for money  or fame, which brings her into frequent conflict with Erin.

The direction starts out with a few experimental shots, like the camera looking out of a peep hole, and trying odd angles, there is one extended shot of the amputated legs, but he doesn’t overuse the amputation, and even in the scene Jeff’s legs are blurred in the background, and not emphasized.  The director eschews special effects and concentrates on keeping the pacing fast and focusing on the rehabilitation story and the strife caused because of Jeff’s struggles to adjust to his new circumstances.  The terrorist attack is almost tangential to the story, as it should be.

Stronger:  Run to watch this excellent film.


cloverfield paradox

In the near future, earth is running out of fuel, nations are on the brink of war.  The multination crew of the Cloverfield space station is tasked to test the Sheppard Particle Accelerator, and if see if it’s operational.  If it is, Earth will have a renewable source of energy, and the specter of world war will diminish.  Crew member Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha Raw) is debating whether to join the team or not, she talks it over with her husband, Michael (Roger Davies) and decides to go.

Three years later, the crew is still on the space station and they are nowhere closer to firing up the particle accelerator, but then they have a breakthrough, and they get the particle accelerator to work briefly, and provide energy to the earth.  In doing so, the crew blows the space station wildly off course and off the Earth’s radar. When the station is blown off course, strange things are happening on the ship.  Volkov, (Aksel Hennie) thinks something is wrong with his eye.  The other crew members find a crew member named Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki) enmeshed in the wiring of the space station, except no one seems to know her. While sealing the ship’s interior panels, the panels amputate Mundy’s (Chris O’Donnell) arm.  While all this is happening, Tam (Zhang Ziyi) and Schmidt (Daniel Bruhl) are planning something without the knowledge of the commander of the Space Station, Kiel. (David Oyelowo) Did the particle accelerator that threw them into the vast reaches of space, cause these weird occurrences to happen?  Can the crew do anything to repair the accelerator and save themselves and the Earth?

That thud Netflix subscribers heard was this bomb landing in their streaming queue. This is an earth-shatteringly bad film, shockingly produced by JJ Abrams.  Why he would lend his name to this floating piece of excrement is beyond me.  It takes an interesting premise and ruins it.  It starts out as a pretty good mystery, trying to generate the atmospherics of vastly better movies like 2001 or Moon.  The reveal is disappointing, and the ending is a bad joke.  This movie was made to try to explain the original Cloverfield film, which was an awful Godzilla ripoff.  Abrams should have left the Cloverfield movies alone after 10 Cloverfield Lane, which was a decent suspense movie.

Equally shocking is why good actors like David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl and Gugu Mbatha Raw would be in a film like this.  Oyelowo was great in Selma, as Martin Luther King Junior, but he’s given very little to do here.  Daniel Bruhl was very good, as Nicki Lauda in Rush, he was also very good as Lutz Heck in The Zookeeper’s Wife, and again, he’s got a small role.  Mbatha Raw is given the biggest role, and try as she might, she can’t avoid the terrible writing.  Zhang Ziyi, who was great in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and 2046, speaks Mandarin throughout, and that got tiresome.

The direction is quite mundane,and the film feels longer than its 1 hour and 40 minute runtime, Abrams is not the director, and it shows the pacing is sloppy, the performances are lackluster, and the ending is ludicrous.

The Cloverfield Paradox A bad luck Cloverfield for anyone who watches.


Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor Oliphant is 30 years old, born and raised in England.  She works in a non-descript office in the accounts receivable department of a graphic design company.  She has no friends, inside or outside work, doesn’t believe in office politics but she does talk to her mother regularly, every Wednesday, like clockwork. Mummy’s been institutionalized. Eleanor has also developed a crush on a local rock singer, Johnny Lomond.  She thinks he is “the one.”

One day, Eleanor’s computer at work gets the dreaded blue screen, so she calls the help desk.  Raymond Gibbons fixes her computer, she asks Raymond if he knows of a good laptop she can buy, but she has an ulterior motive, she wants to do research on her new crush.  She gets the laptop and starts the research right away, she starts learning everything about Johnny through the internet and starts planning where she should meet him.  She tells her mummy about her plan, and mummy encourages it, mummy wants her to meet the right man. Eleanor’s last relationship did not go well.

While leaving work together, Eleanor and Raymond see an old man fall down drunk on the street, and hit his head on the pavement.  Eleanor wants to leave him there with his spilled groceries on the street, to do more research on Johnny, but Raymond encourages her to  keep him talking, which is hard because Eleanor is a social misfit..  She talks to the old drunk, whose name is Sammy, the EMT takes Sammy to the local hospital where he is in a coma, but he comes out of it, and surprise, surprise Eleanor grows fond of Sammy.

The friendship with Sammy also brings her closer to Raymond, who invites Eleanor to meet his mum.  Eleanor and Mrs. Gibbons hit it off too, and she also becomes fast friends with Sammy’s daughter, Laura, who’s a hairdresser and does Eleanor’s hair.  Eleanor’s hair goes from a mousy brown to a trendy blonde.  Eleanor is also dressing better, and giving herself a smoky eye makeover at the Bobbi Brown makeup counter, all with an eye to impressing Johnny, the musician, but the new look also has other benefits, she is suddenly up for a promotion at work and planning the Christmas party.

Does she get up the nerve to meet the musician?

I like this book a lot, some people would derisively call it “chick lit”, that means it’s supposed to be exclusively for women, but that categorization never dissuaded me, one of my favorite books is Jane Eyre, so I plunged right in.  Ms. Honeyman, the author, does a good job of creating a character in Eleanor, who’s an iconoclast, and funny, yet lonely vulnerable and a social neophyte.  If that was the whole book, it would remind me a lot of Bridget Jones.  It does remind me of Bridget Jones for its acerbic humor, but there is much more to this book than an average rom com.

The author does a good job of making Eleanor a sympathetic character, despite the rough edges, so the reader is happy when her social interactions go well, and badly when she stumbles.  Reading this character is like watching a child take its first steps, it’s that visceral a reaction to the character because the author has imbued Eleanor with universal attitudes.  We all feel a bit superior to others at times, even if we don’t admit it to ourselves or others.  We all feel joy when we realize we’ve made a good friend.  We all feel the despair of loneliness.   Eleanor’s mix of confidence and vulnerability make her eminently relatable.

The author sets up three choices for Eleanor, she either doesn’t meet the musician at all, she meets, the musician and it goes well, or she doesn’t meet the musician at all.  It takes Ms. Honeyman a while to get to the more serious issues in this book, but when she gets there, the reader feels the weight of those issues and their effect on Eleanor, it would have been a bit more realistic if those issues were addressed earlier, but it was more dramatic to wait towards the end of the book.

The quibble I have with this book, is that the supporting characters didn’t have enough complexity to them.  While Eleanor had a lot of facets to her personality, Mummy, Raymond, Sammy,  Laura and the musician, are surprisingly one dimensional.  Some of these characters should have had more sides to them.  Humans are complicated beings.

The ending features one more twist, and is surprisingly understated.  I liked the ending.  The book itself a quick read, even when Eleanor’s emotions get complex, the humor makes it an enjoyable read.  Sadly, by the end of her journey, Eleanor loses some of the edge that made her so appealing, and becomes a bit too weepy.

Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine.  Ignore the Oliphant in the room at your own risk.