Monday, March 30, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews TURTLES CAN FLY and has her eyes opened

Directed by Bahman Ghobadi

Ms. Hen was wary of this film at first. She thought she wouldn’t like it. She thought it would be one of those films that are badly and cheaply made. She was so wrong.

TURTLES CAN FLY is a film about Kurdish refugees in Iraq and Iran right before the American invasion. Satellite, who is called that for his enthusiasm about satellites, is one of the teenagers in charge of the children, helping them get jobs, and making sure they’re okay. He convinces the village to buy a satellite so they can watch the news of the Americans arriving. He speaks a few words of English, the old men demand him to translate what George Bush is saying. Satellite’s speaks very little English, so of course, he cannot translate.

The children of the village work digging up mines and various odd jobs. Satellite works as their type of agent, he sells the mines and he tells the boys where there are jobs. A boy with no arms, Hengov, starts a fight with Satellite and they are rivals after that. Satellite heard that the boy with no arms can predict the future and he gets Hengov to tell him what is going to happen.

Hengov has a sister, Agrin, who Satellite starts to like. Satellite tells her he’s always wanted a girl like her, but she isn’t interested in him or anyone else. She carries around a blind baby, and later in the film the audience finds out that he is not Agrin’s brother but her son that was the result of her being raped by an invading army in her village.

This film is a rare masterpiece about a different part of the world where atrocities are taking place of which the people of the West are not quite fully aware. The children run around like animals, and they are barely in school; they have to learn to shoot guns to protect themselves. The parents are not around, or they’re dead, and nobody cares for the children.

Satellite leads the boys in a type of LORD OF THE FLIES in a Kurdish village, every child running rampant and everyone out for themselves. They have to try to make it in the world in a way that American and other Westerners will never have to know.

The tragic aspect of this film is that the actors are actual refugees. They do a brilliant job of portraying the life that they already know. It made Ms. Hen wonder where all these actors are now, if they’ve moved on to other acting jobs, or if they’re still refugees. The actor who played Satellite has done other films, but a lot of the others have not.

Ms. Hen didn’t cry at the end of this film, but she cringed. It hurt her to think that there are terrible parts of the world where these things happen, and it brings her down to think that most people that she knows will never be able to comprehend such horror. The refugees live with the constant fear of losing limbs due to a mine, and the despair of war. The film portrays the atrocities in a sensitive way, and we learn from it. Ms. Hen loved this film, even though it upset her. She likes to have her eyes opened, and this film opened them wide.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews LITERARY LANDSCAPES and finds herself in other worlds

Boston Public Library, Copley Branch
February through October 2015

As you may know, Ms. Hen loves to read. She loves imagining places that don’t exist anywhere except the pages of a book. Sometimes, it’s difficult to get situated exactly where we’re supposed to be when we’re reading. But she found an exhibit that helps her do that.

LITERARY LANDSCAPES is an exhibit at the Boston Public Library, which is a display of maps taken from literature. If you have a hard time figuring out where the Pequod from MOBY DICK sailed, or where The Shire is located in Middle Earth, go see this exhibit in the Leventhal Map Room, a tiny sanctuary filled with maps. As well as the exhibit, there are interactive kiosks, puzzles and other educational items for people who love to learn of all ages.

Ms. Hen travelled to Nantucket and around the Pacific Ocean to chase Moby Dick with Captain Ahab. This map was different from the others since it was based in the so-called real world. Ms. Hen loves the poetry within MOBY DICK, and this map reflects that.

Ms. Hen then flew to Neverland with Peter Pan. She loves the idea of a magic world where a child could fly away and never come home and stay young forever. She likes the island and the drawings of the pirates.

Oz had to be Ms. Hen’s favorite land where she travelled when she read the book. The map helped her to understand where Munchkinland lies in relation to Oz. It’s not very far.

Ms. Hen travelled to visit her friends Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in the Hundred Acre Wood. She didn’t know if Winnie the Pooh would actually be friends with a Hen, but he’s very friendly, so she is sure he would like her.

One of Ms. Hen’s favorite books is THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. Ms. Hen went there to see Mr. Toad in Toad Hall and now she feels really lucky that she knows how far Rat’s house is from Mole’s house, thanks to the map.

Ms. Hen has to confess that she’s never read THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, or any of the books, but she’s seen the films. She found her way to Middle Earth to visit Frodo at the Shire and the Hobbits showed her gracious hospitality.

Many more maps adorn the walls of the exhibit, but she couldn’t take pictures with them all. Some of the books Ms. Hen had not read, but she enjoyed looking at the maps anyway. There’s something about looking at a map that Ms. Hen loves: you can know precisely where you are, or where you want to be. Or where you imagined you could be in your mind as you were reading a story. This exhibits guides your imagination to pinpoint your location inside the book. Ms. Hen loves knowing where she stands, even if it’s in her mind. Because she’s a creative Hen, she sets her mind free and wanders to other worlds when she reads. This exhibit is where those places come to life.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING and gets smothered in niceness

Directed by James March

Ms. Hen watched THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, simply because she likes to know what’s fashionable. She liked the film, but it was nothing extraordinary. It helped that she does not know that much about Stephen Hawking, so much of the film was new information to her.

It is the story of Stephen and his wife Jane Hawking, based on her memoir, TRAVELING TO INFINITY. Stephen was a brilliant young physicist in the 1960s at Cambridge University and Jane was studying French and Spanish. He wooed her with conversation about the stars and she told him she wanted to study medieval Iberian poetry because she liked the idea of time travel.

He was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, and the doctors gave him two years to live. He lived much longer than that, and is still alive today. He wrote his thesis and the advisors told him his theory about black holes was brilliant.

His illness got worse and worse, and he refused to get help in the house. Jane and Stephen had three children. Eventually, he lost his voice and had to speak through a computer.  Jane struggled taking care of him and the children and in the end, they got a divorce.

There is nothing wrong with the film THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. But there is nothing wonderful about it either. It is about people who are nice, who can’t help but be nice and the niceness makes them boring, even though they may be brilliant. Even when they have affairs and do bad things to each other, they’re being nice.

Ms. Hen doesn’t know how she feels about such niceness. She likes attitude and spunk and people who have those aren’t entirely nice. Even though Stephen Hawking is a nice person and is considered brilliant, Ms. Hen doesn’t think she would like to have coffee with him because he seems too nice.

On the other hand, it could be the film that portrayed him that way. Films have a way of making people squeaky clean and much nicer than they are in actuality. Some films go the opposite way and show people in a worse light.

The one shining aspect of this film is Eddie Redmayne’s performance. Ms. Hen believes that he became Stephen Hawking, that he channeled his inner Stephen Hawking and magic happened.

Ms. Hen was reminded of the film THE IMITATION GAME, with which she was also not impressed. It’s the “Great Man” genre, showing men overcoming obstacles to achieve great things. It’s a formula, but THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING was better than THE IMITATION GAME because it was a more amazing story and the audience rooted for the characters. Because they were so nice.

Back to the nice thing.  This film was not exactly Ms. Hen’s cup of tea, but if you’re into physics, marriage or watching people being nice, it may be the thing for you.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM and is glad the hippie days are gone

Joan Didion

Ms. Hen bought this book because she heard Joan Didion is a great writer and she felt like she needed to read more essays. Ms. Hen has never been to California, and reading this made her want to go because most of the essays are about California in one shape or another.

The title essay is about San Francisco in 1967 and the blossoming hippie culture. Ms. Didion went to San Francisco to talk to people to see what was happening so she could write about the movement. She told the people that she met she was a journalist and watched young people going about their lives.

The hippies did drugs. A lot of them. All the time. Ms. Didion was thirty-two when she observed their lifestyle so she had the ability to step back and consider what they were doing. Being on drugs impaired their judgment about everything. She didn’t think the hippies had a beautiful life and there was even much of a movement happening, she thought they were all confused.

At the end of “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” Ms. Didion wrote about how see saw a five year old on an acid trip. For a year, the girl’s mother had given her acid and peyote. The writer did not judge the situation, but you could see how appalled she became. There is something entirely wrong about giving a child acid, and everyone knows this.

In this essay, Ms. Didion shows the growing pains of a country that needed to break free of its repressed youth. This generation were the baby boomers, the ones who came forth after World War II, and needed to break free of the Eisenhower/McCarthy age. These kids wanted to become awakened and high as a steeple, and that’s what they became. They didn’t know or care about what would happen in the future, or if there would even be a future.

In “Notes from a Native Daughter,” Ms. Didion writes about Sacramento, her hometown. She writes about the past and the present at the time in which she wrote the essay. She writes about the newcomers, people who worked at the Aerojet-General and their families, who would never know the old stories of the place, about the Donner-Reed party and cannibalism, or about the rich man who lives in a trailer on the land where his mansion burnt down. There are many places like this in the United States, with colorful pasts that get lost when gentrification occurs, or the old-timers move away or die.

Ms. Didion did not die in New York, but she got very depressed because the city became too much for her as she explains in the essay, “Goodbye to All That.” She describes how she lived in New York when she was young, and new possibilities appeared around every corner, but as the years went by, she kept hearing the same stories from different people. Ms. Hen might be the one to tell the same stories again, but she tries to tell them to different people so nobody will get bored. It’s true that a place can get to you, get under your skin and ruin your perspective. Ms. Hen is never bored anywhere because she is a purse.

Ms. Hen liked this book even though she’s never been to California and a lot of the aspects of some of the essays are quite dated. She likes reading about how the world used to be and she’s glad the world isn’t that way anymore. There are some things about the way things used to be that Ms. Hen misses, such as freedom from cell phones.  A peek into the past and one woman’s view of the world is what this book offers and Ms. Hen was ready to receive that gift.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews IDA and questions her life's purpose

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Undoubtedly, Ms. Hen thinks that the only part of the Oscars that matters is the Foreign Language Films Category. Some hens might think she’s a snob, but she has the credentials in order to accomplish this. She watched IDA, the film that won best foreign language film this year at the Oscars and she swooned as only a hen can.

The first thing Ms. Hen noticed in the film was the beauty of the cinematography. The quality of the picture and the mis en scene in each shot is perfect. The film has a very quiet tone, as if we are peeking at someone’s life who doesn’t know how fascinating she can be.

It is the story of Ida, a young novitiate nun who is about to take her final vows in the early 1960s. She is sent by the Mother Superior to find her only living relative, her aunt, before she commits herself entirely. She finds her Aunt Wanda, a Communist Party insider, who drinks and smokes and sleeps around. She tells Ida about her past, that Ida’s family was Jewish and the rest of them hid in their village to escape the Nazis.

Ida and her aunt travel to their hometown in search of the man who hid Ida’s parents. They are an odd couple, a young nun and a wild woman who drinks straight from the bottle before she goes on a long drive. IDA is a story of someone's journey to find her past, and in the end, she finds herself.

The young actress who plays Ida, Agata Trzebuchowska, acts the part with subtle depth and power. She is not even an actress. The director saw her in a café and decided she would work for the part. Agata Kuliza as Aunt Wanda plays the opposite of Ida, she loves her niece and wants to help, but she can’t stop being herself.

Ms. Hen couldn’t stop herself from noticing the chickens in the film. In the beginning, when Ida is leaving the convent, she steps outside the house, and chickens are inside the barn. Also when Ida and Wanda go to the old family house to the barn that had the stained glass window, chickens ran around their feet.

IDA poses questions about life, and made Ms. Hen question her life. If you were going to spend your life doing one thing and never knew anything else, would you want to see what the world was like? Is there honor in never changing? Should we go down the comfortable path, not knowing what the other path holds for us? Should we always be the same?

Ms. Hen likes films that make her think. IDA is quiet and subtle, but powerful at the same time. It’s a sad film, but one that offers hope. Ida learned about her past and moved on with her life and made the right decisions for herself. Ms. Hen hopes that someday she will make the right decisions, but for now she is a purse, simply an accessory with strong opinions that will not stay quiet for anyone.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS and feels protective about her cells

By Rebecca Skloot

Ms. Hen acquired this book from one of her hen friends, and even though she does not usually read nonfiction, she had heard it was a good book, so she took it home to her coop and let it sit for a while until she read it.

It is the story of an African-American woman, Henrietta Lacks, who died in 1951 from cancer that had spread throughout her body. Before she died, doctors took a sample of her cancer cells, which were different from any other cells the doctor had encountered. They did not die in the lab, but they grew and grew and never stopped. They were named HeLa, by George Gey, the scientist who discovered their potential. The name came from the first two letters of her first and last names.

Henrietta’s family did not find out what had happened with her cells until twenty years after she died. They never received any compensation and were not acknowledged until the scientists thought they could test the other members of the family to see if they might also have the genetic disposition to have the same kind of cells as Henrietta. The family did not understand what had happened.

The family knew that someone made money from Henrietta’s cells, and that made them angry. They knew that it was for the betterment of science, but they could not afford health insurance for themselves. Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who never knew her mother, became an embittered and sickly person because of what she learned about her mother’s cells. She tried to learn about her mother’s cells, but she never received the education to be able to understand the complexities of the problem.

Ms. Hen is not that interested in science, but this book was written in a way that made it easy to read. She especially liked the story of Dr. Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon who attempted to grow an immortal chicken heart.  Carrel won the Nobel Prize for inventing a blood-vessel suturing technique, and his contributions to organ transplantation, but that had nothing to do with his chicken heart. Ms. Hen was excited that there was speculation that a chicken heart could be made out of a sliver of tissue, but in the end, Dr. Carrel was trying to invent immortality that could never happen.

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS is a story of science, racism and ethics. It poses the question through case studies along with HeLa, do people have the rights to the tissues in their own bodies? And if they don’t, why should scientists make money from the cells that are in our bodies? Courts again and again have decided with the scientists because they claim that when patients give up samples of their tissues, they no longer own the rights to those tissues.

Ms. Hen wants to own the rights to her own tissues because she doesn’t want what happened to the Lacks family to happen to her. Years of not knowing, anger and pain will not make up for the fact that their mother helped science. Science is not everything, according to Ms. Hen. The laws of science should not rule the entire world. People are first, and they should have the right to say what happens to the cells that come out of their bodies. Hens are also first, according to Ms. Hen, and they have the right to protest whatever they think is not right, which includes stealing cells and profiting from others.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews TRISTAN AND YSEULT and enjoys watching characters suffer over love

Kneehigh, UK
Cutler Majestic Theater Boston, MA
March 5 – 15

Ms. Hen knew nothing of the story of Tristan and Yseult when she decided to go to this play. She knew it was a classic, and the story has been told many different ways. But she didn’t know how fun the play would be. She had no idea there would be lots of music and dancing and people hanging from ropes.

TRISTAN AND YSEULT is a love story, and the play is told with a background of a group of hooded, bespectacled people holding binoculars called The Club of the Unloved. A woman, Whitehands, a prim 1950s lady with gloves, a hat and a purse close to her side, narrates the play, and is a member of The Club of the Unloved. She is part Greek chorus, part tragic leading lady, and Ms. Hen was surprised to find out who she really is at the end.

Tristan is the illegitimate son of King Mark, the king of Cornwall. Tristan finds King Mark and explains the situation. The kingdom is invaded by the Irish, and Mark kills Moreholt and finds a piece of chestnut hair in a locket after he dies. Mark sends Tristan to find this girl, Moreholt’s sister, and claims he will marry her. Tristan goes and finds her, but she heals him and they fall in love.

Yseult and Tristan drink a love potion and wine, and then engage in a love affair. They are drunk and dancing and are lifted on pulleys, and it shows the buoyancy of what it is to be drunk and in love. They can’t keep their hands off each other. But Yseult has to marry the king when she lands in Cornwall. She likes the king, but she doesn’t understand how she could love two people.

What happens with her servant Branigan, played brilliantly by Niall Ashdown, on the wedding night is ludicrous. Stuart Goodwin, as King Mark, is reminiscent of Ralph Fiennes. King Mark and Branigan have a cozy scene while Tristan and Yseult dance in the foreground.

Tristan speaks French, but translates what he says afterwards. Yseult is a moon-faced maiden who puts her hand on Tristan to heal him, as if she were doing a type of reiki, and she succeeds in her mission. Women have been healers in many different cultures.

Frocin, played fearlessly by Damon Daunno, when he takes a picture of them and shows it to the king, foils Tristan and Yseult. Frocin is the jester in the court type, loyal to the king, and willing to do anything to get noticed.

Frocin dances through much of the play. The music in the play is spectacular, running from 1950s songs to Sting to Bob Marley to Wagner. Parts of the music are live, and some of the characters sing in the play. The audience also participates during the wedding scene, the instruction were to blow up balloons and throw them at the bride and groom.

Ms. Hen was surprised when the man sitting next to her cried at the end. The end was emotional, but Ms. Hen didn’t cry. It was a beautiful story about love through ordeals, and the music made it more dramatic. Ms. Hen gives this play five feathers up, because it made her happy and that’s all a hen wants.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews WHEN THE STARS BEGIN TO FALL at the ICA and poses for photos in front of artwork

Contemporary Southern Artists
February 5 – May 10

Ms. Hen loves things that are strange. Anything strange. She loves the ICA because it always changes and there is always a surprise waiting around the corner. She braved the walk to the museum on a cold February afternoon to see the show by Southern African American artists entitled WHEN THE STARS BEGIN TO FALL.

The show is of 35 different artists and each piece is different. Ms. Hen didn’t like everything she saw, but she did like much of it.  A large piece, SATELLITES, by Jacolby Satterwhite, full of color and showing different parts of human experience struck Ms. Hen with the emotion the painting evoked.

When Ms. Hen first walked in, she saw Deborah Grant’s panels depicting the life of the artist William Henry Johnson, a folk artist who studied art in America and Europe and died in a psychiatric hospital in Long Island.

One of Ms. Hen’s favorite pieces in the show was by Joe Minter, HOUSEWIFE, which is a collection of vacuum cleaner tops that build a body with a mannequin head on the top. This reminded Ms. Hen of her mother’s favorite saying, “Laundry is my life.” It always made Ms. Hen depressed that her mother said that because Ms. Hen thinks there’s more to life than housework. Ms. Hen does not like to clean. But she does like to do laundry and cook.

Another set of striking objects is by Marie “Big Mama” Roseman. She made quilts until she started making artistic pieces that were made similar to quilts, with appliqué objects on them. Ms. Hen was struck by these because it seemed like the artist was like a quilter gone haywire, like she’d had enough of making things look pretty and she wanted to do her own thing. Ms. Hen admires any person who has the guts enough to do her own thing, including making spastic quilt-like works of art.

In the back corner is a painting by Kerry James Marshall, IF I HAD POSSESSSION OVER JUDGEMENT DAY, which depicts a character from a Minstrel Show, a type of show in which African American were shown as caricatures, and were offensive and racist. The line in the painting is from a Robert Johnson song, a Blues singer who never became famous in his lifetime, but was influential. The painting is striking because of the colors and the harmony of the lines.

Ms. Hen does not claim to be an expert on art, but she knows what she likes. A lot of this show seemed disjointed to her because all the artwork did not seem to go together and it was not all the same caliber. Some of the art is not even worth mentioning, and some of it Ms. Hen didn’t like at all. But she always looks for the good parts of everything, because most of the time there’s a positive side. Ms. Hen is an optimist, even though it’s not easy in a world full of misery and ugliness. But Ms. Hen believes that tomorrow always bring a new day and new light to everything.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS by the Boston Ballet and dances in the aisle

Boston Ballet
Boston Opera House
February 26 through March 8

Ms. Hen loves ballet, as all hens do. She went to see LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS, and she was swept away by the dancing. She had read the book and reviewed it previously here on this blog, and she knew that the story wouldn’t be the same because a viewer of the dance isn’t able to get all the back story that a novel will give. But she wanted to see how it would be interpreted.

The ballet is about Marguerite, a courtesan in Paris in the nineteenth century. In the opening scene, she is having a party with her friends. She meets a new gentleman, Armand, and he is discouraged from becoming acquainted with her because she is the lover of someone else. The dancers use wine glasses, and mock being drunk, which Ms. Hen found amusing. She had never seen ballet dancers pretending they were drunk, and it was refreshing to see something different. This isn’t a ballet for children. There weren’t any children in the audience.

Some unique choreography was used in this production. In the second act, in the garden party scene, three men and two women had their arms around each other, and the men dragged the women with one toe behind them. This appeared as if it could be fun, but it could also be painful. In the same scene, the dancers play catch with little brown balls, or possibly hacky sacks. Whenever a game like that is played on stage, inevitably there is a chance a ball could be dropped and one was dropped. The dances in the second act were playful, and showed the feistiness of the situation in which the characters were involved.

This ballet was not the lavish production that Ms. Hen saw last year of Swan Lake, with the special effects and the large amounts of dancers on the stage. This is more of a romantic, psychological ballet, meant to heighten the senses and pierce the heart. It’s tragic to watch what happens to Marguerite at the end.

In the last scene, Anais Chalendard, who plays Marguerite, dances barefoot in a nightgown with her hair down. It’s not often a dancer is barefoot in a ballet, which is difficult. The idea is to convey that she is sick and dying, and she is in bed, and she dances to try to save what is left of her life. Marguerite was a tortured soul, and she suffered.

The music of LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS is Chopin, and Ms. Hen knew a lot of it because she was into Chopin in her tumultuous youth. There were also vocal soloists, which made the sad parts more morose.

Ms. Hen enjoyed this ballet because she takes pleasure from beauty and she likes a sad story. If you’re into upbeat entertainment, LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS might not be for you. But if you love a heartrending love story and passionate dancing, go to the ballet. You might see Ms. Hen sitting on a chair in the balcony, flapping her wings together in approval.