A friend who is interested in watching her first Indian film asked me for recommendations. She prefers emotional dramas, rather than comedy. Her favorite movies include Cinema Paradiso, The Notebook, Casablanca, It's a Wonderful Life, Grapes of Wrath, Brooklyn, and Call Me By Your Name. After I answered her query, I thought it would be useful to preserve my recommendations in a blog post in case I need them again.
There are very few Indian films that I would class as pure comedy; they really enjoy mixing a bit of comedy into their dramas and their comedies nearly always involve more than a little drama. The full expression of this mix of emotions is the masala (mix!) genre, which combines, comedy, romance, violence, revenge, etc. See wikipedia for more on masala films. They are an acquired taste, but I have certainly acquired it!
Here are movies I have enjoyed in various genres:
crime drama: Andhadhun very modern Indian style dark comedy/crime drama. Minimal music, but it's gorgeous.
horror: Stree Indian horror is not as gruesome as Hollywood horror, which I tend to avoid. Another Rajkummar Rao starring role. He's always good.
drama with music: Gully Boy hip hop in India? Yes, indeed. This was their Oscar entry the year it came out. The leads are top stars, and their movies are almost always worth seeking out. Ditto anything by the director, Zoya Akhtar, who is fabulous. Her Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a favorite of mine.
drama with minimal music: There are two sports films that are standouts.Chak De India - Think League of Their Own, with a women's field hockey team. The male lead is the biggest movie star in the world, Shah Rukh Khan. Sudani from Nigeria lovely South Indian sports drama film about an African soccer player stranded in a small village in Karala.
Masala favorites: Om Shanti Om (comedy, mayhem, romance, revenge), Chennai Express (comedy, fight scenes, romance, music), Eega (romance interrupted by murder, incarnation, revenge) Fantastic director, S.S. Rajamouli. His two part fantasy epic, Bahubaali, is totally entertaining. Long, but worth it.
Romantic comedies for people who don't like romantic comedies: Aiyyaa (female centered, very sexy), Mirzya (historical fantasy romance), Qarib Qarib Singlle (the late Irfaan Khan. Such a wonderful actor!!), Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (a twist on the usual Indian romantic plot, with great cast.)
Indescribable: Ludo (anthology dark comedy crime film), Super Deluxe (black comedy-drama film with elements of science fiction and fantasy)
Note that while most these are "Bollywood" -- Hindi language, produced in Mumbai -- a few are from other parts of India. This what makes Indian film so fascinating to me. There is huge variety even within the Hindi films, and when you step outside that universe, there is even more.
We moved twice between Labor Day and Christmas when I was in third grade. That’s right, three schools in less than few months. I arrived in my last school a few days before Christmas. The entire class had been learning to play Flutophones, and it was too late for me to catch up.
So a couple of days a week I got sent to the school library while they had their Flutophone lessons. That was when I took out the very first book I chose on my own. The rest, as they say, is history.
I had some great choices for today's holiday! It's also Gingerbread House Day, but that sounded too time-consuming for one person, and less fun than it would be as a group effort. And then I read the description of National Ding-a-Ling Day, and knew that had to be it.
The idea for National Ding-A-Ling Day came in 1971 when Franky Hyle of the Chicago area was at home with friends. "Some husbands and wives were sitting around my house, talking and drinking and thinking people ought to be friendlier to one another," he said. They looked up what "ding-a-ling" meant in a dictionary, and they found one of the definitions said it was "one who hears bells in his head." Hyle decided to create a day where celebrants would call people they haven't seen in years, in order to rekindle old friendships. He wanted to encourage people to be natural and let their guard down. Perhaps the idea of having a phone be involved in the day had to do with the fact that it rings, just like a ding-a-ling is associated with ringing.
Now, I love the idea of going outside my comfort zone and making new friends, but those who know Jo know that calling anyone on the phone is not on my list of favorite things to do. So I may or may not pick up the phone and call someone, but I am definitely going to meet some new neighbors outside for a COVID-style visit.
I love making things. I love learning how things are made, and mastering new skills. So I have been looking forward to this holiday all week, my mind brimming with ideas for what to make and for whom. I posted a challenge to share memories of handmade gifts on my Facebook page, and there were so many precious gifts, made by kids and parents and grandparents and partners. We’ve downsized holiday giving quite a bit since over the years; one year we even shared a “Little House” Christmas with a neighbor family. All the gifts were handmade and the food came from the Little House Cookbook.
For today’s celebration, I turned to an old favorite, a craft I photocopied decades ago from a library book. It’s an origami picture frame, just the right size for a wallet-sized picture. I add a ribbon or string and it’s a tree ornament. We have a complete set of school photo ornaments for each kid, and most Christmases they are the only ones I use. This year, we aren’t sure where to put a tree so I hung the ornaments on our apartment door. Our neighbor loved them, so I made her a set of six for her grandchildren’s pictures. Just a few hours work, and I am still smiling,
It’s National Mutt Day! I am a lifelong fan of Team Dog (though I do not disparage cats) and 4 of the 7 dogs my families have owned were mixed breed. (The rest were beagles, in our beagle rescue period.) I am going to celebrate by sharing photos and memories of my mutts, and encourage you all to turn this post into a virtual dog park!
December 1 is Rosa Parks Day, celebrating the day when Ms. Parks refused to move to the back of the bus. This year, Rosa Parks Day falls on a Tuesday, AKA Giving Tuesday, when every nonprofit I have donated To since the Internet began sends me five emails just because they have missed me soooo much. I knew I wanted to connect the two holidays, but how?
Enter the awesome Crooked Media podcast, What a Day and the hostesses with the mostestest Akilah Hughes and Erin Ryan. (The very best way to start my day!) Erin Ryan dropped the brilliant suggestion to go to DonorsChoose and search for a teacher who has a birthday today. I did just that, and also filtered for first-time proposals. And there she was: a first grade teacher in North Carolina who wanted to get reading materials about unity and diversity for her students. I fully funded her project, and dedicated my donation to Rosa Parks.
Thank you, Crooked Media!
Yes, yes, I know it's Cyber Monday. But it's also Cities for Life Day, AKA Day for Life, Cities Against the Death Penalty, and a bunch of similar names. It celebrates the anniversary of the first time the death penalty was abolished by a government, and I say YES to that! For the full story, which is very interesting, I refer you to the Checkiday.com description. Over 2,000 cities worldwide in 90 countries have Cities for Life observances.
Why did I pick this holiday, rather than any of the other options? (Check them out.) Because I don't believe in the death penalty, and I am ashamed that the United States still practice it. It is a punishment which, like all others in our justice system, falls more heavily on people of color. It is meted out unevenly, with the result that innocent people have been executed in our name. It does not deter crime; that has been proven over and over again. The United Nations General Assembly on this day once more passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. It passed by a vote of 120-39 (24 abstentions). The "sweet land of liberty", our "shining city on a hill", voted against it.
For more information, visit the website of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
I can’t decide between two holidays on today’s calendar: Small Brewery Sunday and National Square Dancing Day, so why not celebrate both?
First, let’s sing the praises of small local breweries. We are living in a golden age of local beer, and here in Maryland we enjoy an abundance of excellent small breweries. In a three mile stretch of U.S. Route 1 a short drive from our home, we can find three breweries, a meadworks, and a distillery making awesome gin and apple brandy. Featured here are our two favorite destinations, Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store (come for the fridge magnets, stay for the sours and IPAs) and Streetcar 82, one of a handful of deaf-owned and operated breweries in the country.
And square dancing? When I was a kid in Nebraska, that WAS phys. ed. In elementary school. I have always loved folk dancing, and there is something wonderful about the way that square dancing engages both the body and the brain — you have to listen to the caller, and a good caller keeps you on your toes, dancing and laughing. A few years ago there was a story circulating on the internet about how Henry Ford promoted square dancing as a white supremacist, anti Semitic reaction to the popularity of jazz. Ya know what? That might be why Henry Ford liked it, but I have a feeling that he would really hate the vibrantly queer square dance scene that has sprung up across the country. There is something lovely and hopeful about the transformation of something planted in hate that blossoms in love and joy. So take that, Henry Ford.
Everyone knows it's Black Friday, and lots of people know it's Buy Nothing Day. But how many have heard of Pins and Needles Day? Observed every November 27 by hardly anyone, Pins and Needles Day celebrates the opening of a pro-labor musical review by that name, produced in 1937 by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union at the Labor Stage Theater in New York. African American dancer Katherine Dunham directed a cast of ILGWU members. It ran for over 1100 performances, and was performed in the White House in 1938. In 1962, a commemorative studio album was released, featuring a very young Barbra Streisand in the lead. Here she is from the original cast album singing "Status Quo".
It's been revived and updated several times since, and everything about its story warms my heart. I've done piecework and other stitchery for a living (if you can call it that), and I have taught about the industrial revolution and unionization. If I had only known about Pins and Needles, those lectures could have had a soundtrack!
Maybe if enough people celebrate Pins and Needles Day, we can have another revival!
My Gender Mystique blog focuses on my work on clothing, sex, and gender. That's not all I do, so this blog is about everything else.