Miss Jacqueline

What comes to mind in the arts, fashion, style, music, et al…

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My Gardenia

I’ve had a gardenia plant for a couple of years now, keeping it in a terra cotta pot that I was certain was the adequate size without it becoming root bound. I’ve carefully brought it inside to keep it safe from the Canadian winter, and outside in the spring, where it always turns brown and drops its leaves until it re-acclimates to it’s party sunny spot. It struggles. Never flowers. And yet I cared for it as best as I could, remembering to mix up some Miracle Gro every now and trying my best to nurse it back to health after I’d forgotten it on a hot day and the soil had dried out… again. It never seemed to grow a smidge, but I kept it in hopes that one day it would somehow finally be happy. Sadly, this never came to pass and it just sat there… Stunted.

I did this because I know what a gardenia can be. It bears glossy, dark green leaves and creamy white flowers with the most heavenly of fragrances – reminding me of the kind of sunny, humid places, with warm breezes and flower bearing trees that make me want to live there forever… *sigh* It’s the most popular flower in bridal bouquets and tucks beautifully behind the ears of pretty Hawaiian wahines. I was determined.

Then, two days ago I decided that I would transplant it into a large pot that sat vacantly on my patio, full of soil and just patiently waiting to recieve. I took it out of its pot – still with a lot of room for growing – and planted it in the big vessel. I was right that it was not root bound at all, and I felt validated that I had done all I could.

All of a sudden the most amazing thing happened! Within two days, my sad little gardenia plant perked up. Tender, bright little green leaves sprouted on the woody branches, and it is beginning to flourish. It looks so perfect with all that space, as though it was supposed to be there all along, like it will steadily grow into the beautiful shrub it was always destined to be.

Funny, I was certain that the small pot was all it ever needed, but when it was given a nice big pot, it took a giant drink and began spreading its roots. I can almost hear it let out a sigh of relief as it settles in happily into its new home. Placing it in the best possible environment, providing it with a place to grow, to breathe, to expand, to live up to its full God-given potential without constraints, was exactly the formula for success.

It needed room. Plain and simple. With fresh soil containing the moisture nutrients and space it was craving, it is flourishing. Now I know that in a few short months, I will be rewarded with and a thriving shrub that will be laden with breathtaking blooms exuding the heady fragrance I have been dreaming about.

Isn’t that what we all need? It makes me think about what a perfect metaphor this is for all of us. Who are we trying to control in an environment that does not match up to their needs? Who is not giving us room to grow and blossom into what we are meant to be? Sometimes it is others who we allow to do this to us. Sometimes we do it to ourselves, and we are so confined in our little pots that we don’t even recognize the fresh start we have right before our eyes…

Summer is almost here. Maybe it’s simply time for a bigger pot.



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“American Mary” reviewed by Jacqueline Ryan


American Mary is grotesque and demented, telling a twisted and far-reaching, yet strangely viable tale that keeps you wanting to delve more deeply into the insanely warped subculture of extreme surgical procedures, spawning what is sure to become a cult classic horror film, written and directed by Jen and Sylvia, The Soska Sisters.


What would you do if your teachers turned out to be the sickest f#@ks of all and you were down on your luck and money? What if the opportunity that knocks is the seedy underbelly of a twisted reality, and the usual lifestyle is a sickening deluge of plastic surgery and body modification taken to its contorted hilt where money is no object and the bizarre is the norm? In American Mary, it is the teachers who are the monsters, and the medical student who becomes the victim… becomes the master… becomes the monster.

Mary’s disposition moves from blasé, to a melancholic detachment that I found to be, most disturbingly of all… relatable. When I realized that I actually understood why she was using gruesome methods to systematically amputate and deform deserving candidates, that is what frightened me the most. As she exacted her revenge, giving the sadistic predator his comeuppance in an excruciating fashion, I cringed with revulsion and wondered with curious anticipation what nefarious deed she was going to execute next.


When it came time to perform a complicated arm exchange surgery on a set of erotically perverse twins who seeked her out for their abomination of a dream operation, chillingly played by the twisted Soska Sisters themselves, Mary knew she would need some medical assistance. She asked Billy in her low, gravely voice… (paraphrasing) Mary: “Do you know anybody who’s good?” Billy: “I know someone who is really terrible that owes me a favor.” Enter Marius Soska, the twins’ father, producer and actor, lending yet another creepy element to the film.

Katherine Isabelle who stars as Mary Mason, gave an engaging performance. She has a profoundness to her… A penetrating, far off look in her eyes that makes you feel her cool determination, but keeps you at a mysterious distance. She had a powerful, “don’t f#@k with me” presence onscreen, while still allowing you a glimpse inside her vulnerability. Perfectly cast, she can now be elevated into scream queen royalty… No one could have captured Mary better.


Tristan Risk was spot on as Beatrice, a weird, over processed Betty Boop character who’s delightfully freakish performance was flawless. I know the real Miss Risk up close, and you would never in a million years know it was her behind those round black cartoon eyes. She was completely absorbed in every way, disappearing into this sympathetic character… Her high pitched voice, and 1920’s Brooklyn accent were astonishing.


Billy Barker, played to perfection by Antonio Cupo, is the man behind the The Filth, the basement bar where Beatrice dances and the heartbeat of the diabolical surgery. He hints at a Mark Ruffalo’s demented alter ego, believable and dirty yet strangely likable in a perverse way, like most of the characters.


 I haven’t seen anything as compellingly grotesque since Dead Ringer and as original as Naked Lunch. Shot in a highly artistic and stylized way that elevates the quality of the film and belies its limited budget indie status, it still has an indie horror flick feel, and welcomes you onto a voyeuristic trip into to the fascinating world of body modification and beyond.


For those practicing body mod in the film, and clients of Mary (who had gained star status as the “go to” body mod doctor) it was unsensationalistic, really – it was what it was – an accepted practice in the film, almost as though the body modification was itself a character.

The special effects were grizzly and spectacular! Everything about the gruesome spectacles were believable, and they took it as far as they wanted it to go. Chunks of bloody vaginal bits falling to the floor, horn implants and split tongues, and corset laced backs were de rigueur for this film. The special f/x makeup was beyond brilliant and the body prosthetics and sculptures were masterpieces worthy of their place in gore history.


American Mary is a must see for the warped minded, and a horror film that will make the flesh crawl right off your back…


After the screening, I chatted with two wonderful local actors, Clay St. Thomas and Nelson Wong, who played Dr. Walsh and Dr. Black, and the amazingly supportive and cool parents of Jen and Sylvia Soska, who also happen to be the producers of American Mary and fantastic actors in the film. The rest of the cast was in Los Angeles for their lavish premier at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood!


Clay St. Thomas and Nelson Wong


Agnes and Marius Soska

Special thanks to Corrine Lea at The Rio Theatre for a fantastic premier, and her tireless efforts to celebrate and support the Vancouver Arts and Film Community!