Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Evolution and Art of film subtitles

Do you feel shut out of some highly acclaimed movies?  Or maybe would like to know what is being said during the "dirty" parts.?  Maybe you just want to better understand how a movies fits together.  Subtitles open up the world, but there is an art to them that can not only enhance the movie, but also further confuse the issue.


 

 "Sairat" a surprising movie in a language you are probably unaware of--Marathi.

There are really two concerns--clarity and understanding and they are intertwined.

Silent films had the problem of communicating dialogue and explaining some actions.  They chose to use a full screen for a title page with dialogue or description.  This could be to cover foreign films to the extent many Americans did not realize which country the film originated from.  Many silent films were accompanied by a musical band, but one invention cut that expense by allowing programmed music to play with the film.

If it is blurry or with confusing fonts the reader is slowed down.  If the letters blend in with the background color it will force more concentration on just reading.  Advances in chemistry applications, laser and lately digital have made reading much smoother and less distracting.   Bubbles are often used to project thoughts usually for humour.  Norwegians and Hungarians advanced the technology.

By 1903, "Uncle Tom's Cabin utilized inter titles between film scenes.  By 1909 M. N Tropp developed concept of subtitles at bottom of screen.

One of the early pioneers, Herman G Weinberg got involved with foreign films brought to the United States by re arranging German symphony music for string quartets.  When  talking pictures became more common, many foreign films became inaccessible.  In a bit of a learning process Herman subtitled over 300 movies.  With a subtitled German film the non Germans were upset that they were not understanding a joke as the German speakers were all laughing. 

"Sarah's Key" an international classic you can better understand in French and English.

To avoid taking away from other factors--cinematography, acting, scenery, costumes, etc. written dialogue needs to be concise, meaning often words are eliminated to get at the meaning.  Colloquialisms are tricky, but if not dealt with the viewer is confused. A typo can add to the confusion.

Dubbing became popular at one time as it was thought a better way to make words clear.  Many movies are still available this way, but many of us find dubbing unnatural.  The voice doesn't always match the visual and often comes with an awkward distracting cadence.

Woody Allen is a challenge because his movies tend to be wordy.  He admired  French subtitleist who managed  to captured the essence of his dialogues.

Censoring can be disastrous distorting the meaning of the script.  Sometimes the subtitleist uses euphemism for swear words. 

"Leviathan" depicts a Russia you never knew about.


 In some instances subtitles are not needed .  In some films your viewpoint is that of one of the main characters, but sometimes they are confronted with people speaking in a language they don't understand.  Often subtitles are used so you can understand an irony in the dialogue, but other times it is better if you are as confused as the protagonist.   The film credits are often left alone, but admittedly when non Roman fonts are used such as cyrilic or Asian a film buff will not learn to appreciate a particular artist who contributes to their enjoyment.

"Corazon de Leon" filmed twice in Spanish,  one of the most popular film languages.  See what you have been missing!


The idea behind subtitles is to make a film more accessible to a wider audience.  Another neglected audience has been deaf and hard of hearing people and increasingly they have access to descriptive subtitles so they can better understand some of the underlying emotions.Increasing access for more people to movies SDH

The point of understanding the art of subtitles is to better enjoy subtitled movies which offer a whole new world for many of us:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/09/do-subtitles-scare-you-who-knows-what.html

Monday, February 4, 2019

SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND FORGIVENESS

We live in a time when your past (or anyone's) can come back to haunt you, perhaps more easily than in any past time.  The thing that has changed the most is not human behavior, but the all too common self-righteousness.

Infants are pretty much at the mercy of their parents.  Children are influenced by their peers.  Young people still struggle to fit in.  Hopefully some of us mature enough to realize there is more to the world than we had been taught.  Humans still want to think of themselves as good, as accepted by society, strive for domination and intimacy and want to survive whatever the world throws at us.

Governor Northam is not somebody I was very conscious of and can only speculate how his  inner thinking and feelings operate today.  To be a successful politician, requires a strong ego, strategic thinking and luck.  Luck that no one will uncover some of your almost forgotten youthful history.  We have all gotten away with something.  I am very conscious of some of my youthful failings--this is not a full confession, but most of you would be able to relate:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/08/what-have-you-gotten-away-with.html

To get to where you are you made a number of mistakes.  Some of them you learned from and others you have been able to cover up, even forget.  One of the childish games most of us have played was to catch someone having done something stupid or forbidden.  At an early age we become conscious of avoiding or covering up embarrassing or punishable actions.  This is second nature to the vast majority of us.

We have set standards of behavior for different situations and all too often at least a few of our trespasses are unforgivable.   Many of us can be a bit critical.  When we have been caught, a few look for opportunities to criticize others, particularly our enemies.

I can only imagine the atmosphere Ralph Northam grew up in, but speculating that many of his elders and his peers had some form of racism.  We all do, but to some areas it is more blatant than others.  We like to think that medical students would be more educated and mature, but it is likely there are some that are provocative and even more likely that others don't want to rock the boat.  Virginia is not considered the Deep South, but is still a southern state.

An article I read, I think on CNN pointed out that some politicians that have advanced equality had a long history of racism.  The two most easily remembered are Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson.  One might argue that their past also formed their understanding and allowed them at a mature age to take a courageous stand.  Governor Northam's political record regarding respect for blacks (prior to his mishandling of this current scandal) has been relatively commendable.   I don't know what he would have done without this obstacle, but suspect he would be a supporter of equal rights.

Hypocrisy  runs deep in American politics.  When Newt Gingrich was among the leaders trying to impeach President Clinton he was in the midst of an adulterous affair.  Perhaps a more appropriate analogy might be Donald Trump with his many anti black words and deeds loves to catch Democrats in their hypocrisies.  I do realize I am indulging in "he did it too."  A Biblical saying is "he who is without sin should cast the first stone."

Forgiveness can be very difficult.  The most difficult cases deal with violence and humiliation.  Sometimes the "guilty" one is unrepentant.  The forgiveness not only allows one side to move forward, it also allows the innocent victim to also move forward and another bonus is that the rest of society can benefit.  I don't think Governor Northam needs to automatically resign, but he will be judged hopefully on how he goes forward.  Has he matured, has he learned, can he become a positive example?

The big question for all of us might be what have we learned from our past and how can we do better in the future?

Some earlier thoughts on some recent examples of quick judgments:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/are-we-quick-to-judge.html 

Two Postscripts (about one hour later)

1.  After writing this, one fear is that just by suggesting Governor Ralph Northam might deserve forgiveness means some people will find it difficult to forgive me.  No matter what one expresses there is someone ready to condemn.   It seems likely that there are a number of people that can understand my argument. Most of them worry about what others will think of them.  I feel that as well.

2.  Many years ago when I was about in grade 6 two or three of us somehow got turned on by two movies about Al Jolson.  Rock was starting to shape our music interests, but we got sidetracked.  One of us bought some records which we all listened to.  Recently I re-saw the two movies and realized a few things.  I had had almost no contact with blacks at the time and it did strike me as strange that Al Jolson did a lot of performances in black face.  In the first of the movies they showed some scenes where Al joined some black musicians and wanted to adapt some of the music and moves--apparently this was the start of his rise to fame.  He was really impressed with their music and I understand was supportive of individual blacks, but it does boil down to cultural appropriation.  Another more recent example was Elvis Presley who made a lot of black music popular among whites.  I enjoyed Al Jolson and probably didn't notice that sometimes the blackface enhanced my enjoyment.  Jolson and Presley helped open up our culture, but each of them at one time must have wrestled with their conscience.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

WHAT I LEARNED AS A TAX PREPARER

Are you dreading the upcoming tax return?  Not sure how to fill out the forms and what documents are needed?  You are not alone.  

It was a long time ago that I got paid to prepare tax returns,  but I have done tax returns for myself and family up to the present.   H and R Block offered a part time job (I already had a day job), but you had to take a course.  I thought I knew it all, but sadly didn't.

I knew that we had a progressive tax system, but didn't really understand how it works.  The instructor was very good at explaining.  It starts with the premise that everyone has certain financial needs:  food clothing and shelter.  The exact levels are difficult to determine fairly, but it is generally accepted that some people do not earn enough income to pay taxes.  Others earn enough to survive with more for other goods and they are expected to contribute, but the government realizes many can only spare so much.  Still others, a minority make well more than needed to survive and in fact enjoy luxuries.  Usually they benefit more from government infrastructure than the rest and are able to pay more taxes.

Personally I owned a small amount of stocks and was pleased to learn about dividend tax credits.  The theory being that the country needed investors and many were of the widows and orphan types that needed encouragement and protection.  Many years later I learned that people who earn money through some investments pay a much lower tax rate, one American billionaire who thought this was a shame was Warren Buffet who paid a lower tax rate than his secretary.

My daytime job was selling office supplies and on one call to an accounting firm I boasted that I had taken the course.  The accounting company rep boasted back to me, "you learned the basic facts of how to fill out the form.  We figure how much you can get away with."  I always knew there were people in all income levels who bent the rules.

One memory-a client admitted that he had done flyer delivery for cash payments.  In another previous job I worked with flyer distribution.  I knew that his official income would not result in any taxes owed.  I shamed him into estimating his unofficial income.  We did it in such a way that he still didn't pay any taxes, but we both felt uncomfortable.  More on my circulation career which included a stint marketing flyer distribution:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/08/my-career-in-circulation-part-3-winding.html

A common strategy I encountered with customers was to overpay taxes and get a nice rebate.  They hated the idea of having to pay extra taxes.  A better way to look at it is you do end up paying taxes that means you had the use of the money beforehand.  If you got a rebate that meant the government had the use of your money.  Forced savings such as buying mutual funds or bonds is a better way and if you register the investment plan you can save money on your taxes.

Another common practice was to buy a RRSP mostly around the month of February to get a tax deduction.  If enough people did this it would be enough to temporarily boost stock prices.  A better strategy would be to do monthly contributions such as to a mutual fund.  Dollar cost averaging helps to optimize fund growth and one overlooked fact is that earnings are protected from taxes until withdrawal.

If your income has any complications it may well pay to seek professional advice  If you income is simple such as wages and standard deductions it is not as difficult as too many people think and free advice is available.

What I had to say about tax collectors:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/04/tax-collectors-dirty-job-frowned-upon.html


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Minority Rights are the key to democracy

This is a cliche for many people, but too many of us need reminding.  Democracy cannot grow without minority rights.

Madeleine Albright. from "Fascism"  states "in a true democracy, leaders respect the will of the majority, but also the rights of the minority.  One without the other is not enough."  More about her book, http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/10/fascism-warning-form-madeleine-albright.html

With every election, we expect everyone to accept the result.  That is how our decisions are made.  However over history we have countless examples of how the majority can be wrong and even sometimes come to regret their decision.  Donald Trump got in without a majority with a platform that seems against minorities as well a big part of what he calls his base.  Too often politicians will set majorities against a minority to win an election.

My concern in this blog post is with minorities, the ones whose vote did not translate directly to power.  The majority/minority split can be in almost every category. (race, sex, age, political preferences).  Ideally every individual should fit into society and contribute to it.

However many minorities are not respected and are even commonly discriminated against.  But examining the concept of a minority any individual can be considered a minority.  There are considered a number of races and even more ethnicities and religious affiliations.  then there are education and employment status.  Sexual preferences are achieving greater public awareness.  We can go further--short or tall (or in between). age  f there are more females in a society than males are a minority, although females may feel they are because they have in effect less political power. 

The point is any one person can be discriminated against, but society is only optimized when every individual is allowed to make a contribution.

Minorities have fought back violently.  Other forms of resistance are not so obvious, but nonetheless impact all of society.

John F. Kennedy quote--"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Nelson Mandela was very realistic after his years in prison.  He knew the majority blacks needed the educated whites and found ways to alleviate criticism.  Gandhi understood that Hindus were stronger with the support of the Muslims and worked to ally them (and others) to fight the British.  India today has more Muslims than any other nation, although conflicts are still there.

The American constitution and others have tried to give rights to the minorities.  The separation of church and government is crucial.  Although in Lebanon they have achieved some stability by holding some positions of power to specific minorities.  The trend today seems to be to expand minority rights such as for sexual preferences.  The majority normally resists losing their privileged status, but with more contact increase their acceptance.

Proportional voting gives a strong voice to minorities.   One complaint against it has been that too often power is split,  That is true, but when it happens it is more difficult for one party to discriminate against the minority

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Fifth Risk--the latest from Michael Lewis

Whatever catches the fancy of Michael Lewis is apt to receive perceptive insights.  He has a way of gathering information from people who ought to know better.  We are the ones who are better off.  Mostly in this book he talks to good intelligent people about serious concerns.

One example is Lewis has Karen Pence quoted after Trump and her husband's election victory , "You got what you wanted, now leave me alone."

The Trump team was not prepared for a transition.  In 2015 laws had been passed to make transition plans  mandatory.  In short the Trump team was unprepared, incompetent and too often counter productive.  For the most part they were not interested in learning how a department functioned  Both George Bush and Barrack Obama had gone to great lengths to pass on critical information.  Doug Christie was the one who encouraged Trump to set up a transition team.  In the end he got fired by Steve Bannon and much of what he set up was disregarded.

What is the Fifth Risk?  Many mechanisms could have been developed, but the author chose a judgment of one of his contacts.  The risks were the dangers of a Trump government not paying attention to real problems.  It was admitted that each of the listed risks could have been ranked differently and others could be added  The first risk was of a nuclear disaster.  The second risk was North Korea acting up.  The third risk was the unraveling of the Iran deal.  The fourth risk was an attack on the electric grid.  The fifth risk was to project management by which I interpret to mean the government not continuing to monitor scientifically the many dangers threatening the population..

By many people with a conservative philosophy the government is a problem.  This has fostered a distrust and ignorance of the the government functions.  To some (myself included) a function of the government is to protect their citizens.  In many cases this means against the 1% who are exploiting the masses.

One almost comical appointment was for Rick Perry to the Department of Energy.  That was the department he famously forgot in one of the presidential debates.  He confessed he had no idea of its functions which included nuclear weapons controls.  His ignorance is typical.

Government employees are often portrayed as not as smart as private business employees and are not conscientious.  The author was able to find many who do not fit that description and who have been in fact crucial for the health and welfare of all Americans.  For the most part these employees had been ignored by the Trump team.

Another myth seemingly integral to the Trump team is that government cannot get things done as well as private business.  In fact most corporations are not willing to spend large amounts of money and time on research.  That critical function has been done through government.  Mariana Mazzucato had a lot of insight on this matter:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/07/the-entreprenurial-state.html.

Like other Republican political leaders (and for that matter many Democratic leaders) take up the mantra that regulations stifle business.  What is overlooked is that unchecked corporations will cut corners and usually looking for ways to exploit consumers.  Many feel that the 2008 recession can be traced to lack of enforced regulations.    Allowing more money into the political process assures that many decisions will be tinged with vested interests.  Most of the Trump appointees were focused on doing away with regulations that hurt profits rather than protecting citizens.  A prime example was deleting information on climate change.

Funding for research was routinely cut (partly to allow for tax cuts) and also loans to startup companies particularly for renewal resources.  Conservatives were quick to point out the mistake loaning money to Solyndra.  Nevertheless the loan program did succeed to give American renewal resource companies to boost energy preparedness and pay for itself. Oil interests are constantly fighting renewal resources.

Nutrition has been a concern of government that is resisted by many food manufacturers.  Meat inspectors, researchers, etc have been instrumental in saving lives.  Nonetheless Trump appointees
take the side of profit seeking corporations..

Michael Lewis as always gets into an issue in depth.  There are so many anti-Trump books and articles out, but also adamant defenders.  It is hard to stomach that not only behind the scenes but fairly visible the Trump administration is not on the side of the "people" as they love to claim.

Maybe Americans will appreciate the positive contributions of the government as the shutdown affects over 800,000 employees taken off their jobs or forced to work without pay.  Countless services will be curtailed and businesses that depended on the spending of federal employees will notice a drop in revenue.  The lack of financing for farmers and small businesses will be slow down the economy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

MEMORIES FROM 2018

2018 has come and gone.  Some more memories to capture before they slip away.

The easiest in some ways to forget are those who are no longer with us.  Some left some good memories.  There are of course many others who could have been mentioned.

Lisa De Macio married to Sam with two great kids, Nicole and Gregory and one grand-daughter Chloe.  At one time she taught English as a second language, the same as my sister Rebecca.  Lisa went on to help people with disabilities.  She didn't want people to cry over her death so she planned her own memorial down to a lot of thoughtful details.  Some high school friends from Havergal College were instructed to make sure humor was added to the memorial and they did.   Sam gave a speech part of which I remember,  "When you leave here, her love will go with you."  I remember her father in law Peter (who married my mother in law) liked to take her out to a favorite Greek restaurant in Burlington--we all came to love.   She had degrees from the University of Toronto and Ryerson.  One small detail given by a friend of hers was she recommended the book by Viktor Frankl--"Man's Search for Meaning"--one that left a deep impression on me.  Sam was right--she left her mark and the rest of us are better off for it.

Sridevi was a Bollywood actress, well regarded in her sphere, but probably not well known among western movie goers.  During a vacation in New Zealand I went to an Indian restaurant, Shiraz in Whangerei and noticed they had sweets including ladoo.  I had never tasted them before, but remembered them from a wonderful movie, "English Vinglish"  in which Srivevi played a woman whose husband and children mocked her for not speaking English.  The movie set up circumstances where she learned to speak English secretly, but all the way through her pride and joy was a business making ladoos which I indulged in during my New Zealand vacation.  I went on to see her in her earlier days when she played romantic leads and a more recent memorable movie "Mom" that is well worth seeing.  I was looking forward to new movies, but will have to content myself with her older films.

Stephen Hawking died during the Paralympics.  From an earlier speech  just before the 2012 Paralympics I would like to.quote:  "We are all different there is no such thing as a standard or run of the mill human being, but we share the same human spirit.  Look up at the stars and not down at your feet."  Another quote, "However difficult life may seem there is always something you can do and succeed at."  Not only gave us science understanding, but also contributed to humanity.

Anthony Bourdain.  I love eating, but my attraction to him was his bringing new cultural experiences.  It was upsetting that he committed suicide, possibly due to addiction problems.  We did learn of exotic food items, but more importantly learned about different cultures and how we all have a lot in common starting with a love of communal eating.  In the first video I saw of him he was participating in a hangi which eventually became a bucket list item for me that I finally indulged in on my recent trip to New Zealand.  See below.

Kofi Anan, former secretary General of the U.N.  A voice of reason in a turbulent world.  After retiring Kofi still had words worth listening to:  https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/2188262544720258/UzpfSTEwMDAwMjk4Mjc2OTIzMzoxNzA3ODI0MDA5MzI3MDA4/

Aretha Franklin left behind a lot of good songs. The one I most remember is RESPECT and I was surprised to learn the original Otis Redding version was a male demand for a woman to be his servant.  She made it an anthem with a different theme.  I have come to appreciate she had other songs, many of which were written by her, but many were covers that were appreciated by the originators including Carole King and Simon and Garfunkle.

John McCain someone we all have to respect.  He was labeled Republican, but in fact he was more free of labels than just about any politician.  More than for others he made decisions based on what he thought was right.  This link is something to remember:  https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/1033524441752457216?s=12



David and Krista presented us with Calder to join his older sister Hannah.  Apparently Calder is already a Toronto Maple Leaf fan.












We finished off 2017 and started 2018 in New Zealand with a memorable holiday.  One of my bucket list items was a Maori ceremony coupled with a hangi.  A Christmas gift from Michael we enjoyed was the best view of Auckland with one of the best meals at Orbit 360, atop Sky City.  Perhaps adding to our enjoyment is that we escaped a bad storm and cold spell back in Ontario. For more details check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/starting-2018-in-new-zealand.html

The Winter Olympics are always something that draws my attention.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/02/winter-olympics-2018.html

Paralympics a few weeks later is something I have come to appreciate what men and women can accomplish despite life's sometimes unfairness:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/03/2018-winter-paralympics-triumph-for-all.html

After three years of tests and wondering, Heather was diagnosed with MS, the progressive kind.  She actually was relieved as she thought her problem might be a brain tumor.  Heather is still mobile, but needs a cane and tires more easily and even falls on occasion.  When the parking lot where she works was tied up with renovations a drive to work campaign had a number of people involved.  We became involved in the MS Mandarin walk campaign and accumulated 9 walkers and cheerleaders--one under one and another close to 90.  We raised over $2,000, but the struggles carries on.  In  a separate fundraising Heather raised enough money for an Alinker ($2800) in a few days.  It boosts her mobility while retaining some muscle use and also allows her to see people eye to eye.

Doors Open Hamilton always seems to fall on the weekend the weather is finally good enough to start getting our yard ready for the summer.  Still I try to keep the tradition alive.  Cannon Knitting Mills has been an empty building I walk by on my way to the dentist, but they have big plans for it.

As Heather reached the age of 40 we decided to have a big party.  It happened that a distant cousin from Atlanta, Lana Wachniak and her husband Bill were in town and wanted to surprise my mother in law.  Heather had friends and co-workers visit.  A lot of baking and cooking was appreciated by the guests.  Heather emulated her birthday photo from age one.

We live within walking distance of a tour boat and this year were able to take advantage of a free community tour.  Hamilton is known as an industrial city and we were able to appreciate the steel plants along the shore of Hamilton Harbour.  But there is also a little bit of nature and art along the way.

A memorable moment for Sharon came when Heather took her to a Blue Jay game as a birthday present.  After the game they encountered a big problem.  The underground parking was flooded and they were delayed for over an hour.  But during  that time Heather spotted Buck Martinez, now broadcaster for the Jays and encouraged Sharon to get his autograph and then a photo.

Another once every four year event was the World Cup.  As usual there were a lot of good games.  The winning French team was mostly made of immigrants or the sons of immigrants.  Croatia provided the other finalist.

40th wedding anniversary of Frank and Connie.  We attended the wedding and were surprised to learn that Sharon is related to her school friend Connie.  Frank came to Canada as an infant with his parents leaving Hungary during the 1956 Revolution.  Family and friends gathered to share memories.






Supercrawl celebrated its 10th anniversary.   It is amazing such a big event is just down the street.  More details:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/09/supercrawl-on-its-tenth-anniversary.html 


I attended an event that would have been on my bucket list if it had been conceivable.  A Bollywood backup singer, Arijit Singh has become my favorite male singer, but he was based in far off India and even though he did tours they were to big cities.  Out of the blue an announcement was made he was performing in Hamilton at the First Ontario Centre within walking distance.  I had not been to any arena type concert in decades, but wanted to see this.  As it turned out it was billed as a Toronto event as I suppose it was more suitable for marketing.  It was a bit of a shock because it was too loud for my ears and an arena doesn't have the right acoustics.  He is a very nuanced singer.  Still I was impressed with the level of musicians backing him and I was also impressed at how long he performed.  He was on stage for over three hours with only a five minute break.  I still love his music, but will stick to a quieter atmosphere.  I suspect most of my readers have not even heard of him.  Nonetheless he has a massive world wide audience and is well worth finding and listening to. 

The Art Gallery of Hamilton BMO International Film Fest was in October.  I always attend the Trailers and Teasers show as you learn about a wide number of movies.  We went to see "Puzzle" starring Kelly MacDonald and Irrfan Khan.

Each year I get to go to the Royal Winter Fair on behalf of The Rider and I get to meet some interesting people.  Jessica Phoenix is a very likeable person who has overcome adversity to win gold medals for Canada had her story written up by Julie Fitz-Gerald.       Here they are at the Ontario Equestrian booth.





This past fall was another gathering of friends from M M Robinson high school plus spouses, friends and some offspring plus Chef Luther..  A few more hit the 65 mark with three cakes from Sharon.






We returned to our traditional New Years' Eve party for food, drink and conversation with close friends.  Sharon outdid herself and my sister Rebecca helped out.




Restaurants eat up money and time, but I love them and consider them a form of art with a lot of potential for beauty. Some memorable  visits in Canada were to Bangkok Spoon, Loaded Pierogis ,Gate of India,  and Mesa,
Looking back to New Zealand restaurants fond memories of  in Whangerei found an Indian dessert, ladoo at Shiraz; Newmarket Sun World Chinese Restaurant, Orbit  360 way up  inSky City;  Pakuranga mall has a weekly market--enjoyed Char Kuey Teow, a Malaysian booth with long lineup, difficult t find a seat, but worth the effort.

Read over 30 books and would like to remember a few:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/my-favorite-books-of-2018.html 

Saw over 300 movies and here is what I want to remember: bit.ly/2R505Gh

top 3 blogs of 2018

Starting the year in New Zealand: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/starting-2018-in-new-zealand.html

my favorite book of the year  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/21-lessons-for-21st-century.html

animals after vegans:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/what-happens-to-farm-animals-when.html

To read  about 2017 check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/2017-another-year-to-remember.html

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 movies

It is impossible to pay attention to all the movies that are available, especially as everyone has other responsibilities in life.  That is true even when you cut down to those that really are worth your time.  Although a lot of movies are covered many more were seen, some of which were arguably just as justified being listed.  Many not .  To make it easier to read I have broken movies into categories so you can skip the ones that don't interest you--but you might find something more interesting down the path not traveled.

English Language

"The Shape of Water, "the Oscar winner for best picture and best director was unique and worthy.  Guillermo del Toro has done another movie combining fantasy and reality, "Pan's Labyrinthe."  It was filmed in Toronto, but I recognized Hamilton City Hall.

"Darkest Hour" brings us back to a four week period in May of 1940 that was one of the most pivotal times in history.  the Germans had backed England into a corner and Winston Churchill, newly in power was being urged to negotiate with the Germans.  A proud, stubborn man he stood up like almost no other historical figures.  Gary Oldham won the Oscar for his portrayal of Winston and well deserved it.

"Hacksaw Ridge" was about conscientious objector in WW II that went on to win the Medal of Courage.  Alan Garfield played the lead in a.bloody action film  comparable to Private Ryan in random violence.   Based on a true story

"Call me By Your Name" was a big breakthrough for Timothee Chalamet who was Oscar nominated for his role as young brilliant man awakening to his gayness.  Armie Hammer played the older scholar who  attracted Timothee.

"The Big Sick" gives comedic treatment to how an inter-racial couple got together after breaking up.  Kunail Nanjiani played himself while his wife Emily Gordon co-wrote and acted as an executive producer.  A lot of laughs, but some food for thought.  Cultural barriers break down with contact.

"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri"  provided an Oscar winning platform for Frances McDormand who played a woman determined to get the police to re-open her daughter's murder investigation.  It left an ambiguous ending.

"The Edge of Seventeen" is about teen angst.  Friendship is tested when her best friend dates her older brother.  Adults will enjoy.

"Love, Simon" a coming of age for a gay teenager.  Nick Robinson was such a likeable person he could confess almost anything and be accepted.  I read one comment that this movie was really for straights.  Nick did win an award for best kiss.


"Lady Bird'  was highly recommended by my daughter Heather and proved to be worth seeing.  Saoirse Ronan demonstrated a remarkable range of acting, this time as a rebellious teenager.   Timothy Chalemet played a relatively supporting role.  Directed and written by Greta Gerwig.  Received 5 Oscar nominations.

"Coco" came out under the Pixar banner film enjoyable for the family.  Lush color, with clever animation.

"Game Change":  was about the 2008 presidential campaign focused on John McCain and Sarah Palin and Steve Schmidt.  What I got out of if (with some help from features) was the elections today need media stars.  Sarah Palin was seen as a potential star, but in reality was very unprepared.  Julienne Moore was great as were Woody Harrelson and Ed Harris.

"The Color of Freedom" couldn't be resisted as I feel Nelson Mandela is the man of the century.  This movie was focused on Mandela's time on Robben Island.  Dennis Haysbert and Joseph Fiennes as a prison warden who is later supported by Mandela.

"Breathe" was another inspiring movie  based on a true story.  Alan Garfield and Claire Hoy
played the couple who overcame a normally fatal health condition in difficult circumstances.
  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/10/paralyzed-men-in-4-foreign-movies.html

"The Promise" looked interesting although it had a low IMDB rating.  It was a love story around the Armenian massacre during WW I.  I have read many explanations about what happened, but it seems evident that many Armenians were led to their deaths.  The movie was very well done and dramatic.
It seems that they received over 50,000 IMDB votes of one star only making it very likely that Turkish denialists voted politically.  It is an excellent movie.

"The Post" was a timely movie defending freedom of the press.  Meryl Streep received still another Oscar nomination and was was well supported by Tom Hanks and others.  Steven Spielberg was director and producer.    A widow takes over her husband's newspaper and resists attempts by others to make important decisions.  Based on real evens around the Pentagon papers it portrayed a rivalry with the New York Times, but with a direct presidential threat to The Post.



The Greatest Showman, a musical written for the screen.  Loved the story, acting and music.  There was an  interesting discussion of how the songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul were developed.  Hugh Jackman played a fictionalized P. T. Barnum.

"Secret In Their Eyes"was a remake of an Argentinian Oscar winner.  I loved the original with Ricardo Darin, but this one was more than acceptable.  The original writer-director Juan José Campanella was an executive producer and appeared on special features to explain how they planned to give it a new twist.  Emilio Kauderer was involved with music for both movies.  Learned that Julia Robert's husband was the cinematographer, Daniel Moder.

"Wonder" was about social acceptance of a deformity.  They chose to show it from different viewpoints.  The neglected sister, the guilty friend, the old girl friend of the sister.  The young boy Jacob had been seen in my favorite movie seen in 2016 "The Room"

'Blindspotting" was very interesting.  Two men, Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs were friends who wrote this movie and acted the leads and produced.   Covers race relations and gentrification.  Two supporting women made some of the more subtle points.

"Far from the Madding Crowd" was a remake based on a Thomas Hardy novel.  This version starred Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts.  Directed by a Dane, Thomas Vinterberg.

"Gifted" was a very charming movie.  It hit a nerve as it was about a young girl who was a genius and was the subject of a custody court battle partly around her schooling.  My kids weren't that smart, but were gifted and we felt honored to have them in a special class.  There certainly are advantages, but there is another side such as being normal.  The cast (Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate) was excellent and you are very apt to feel good after watching.

Science Fiction

Admittedly don't watch many science fiction movies, but thought "Upgrade" from Australia had a message about artificial intelligence taking over the world.  It had a few nice twists about perception.

"Blade Runner 2049" was a sequel with at least one holdover actor, Harrison Ford.  Lots of special effects, hi-tech.  Director, Canadian Denis Villeneuve is commanding lots of respect with success of "Arrival" last year.

Older movies

"The Defiant Ones" (1958) had Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier both nominated for Oscar awards.  Two prisoners (one black and one white) handcuffed together learn to overcome their prejudices.

James Cagney in "G Men" (1935) had a slight role switch.  Special features pointed out that critics had been upset that gangsters had been glorified too much.  But the public was fascinated by violence and the solution was to turn gangster actors like Cagney into law enforcement heroes and still carry on with violence.  Cagney is excellent in roles calling for comic talent.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/09/james-cagney.html

"One Eyed Jacks" (1961)with Marlon Brando playing a baddie and also directed.   An unusual western in that part of it was filmed by the ocean.  Marlon apparently waited several days to get the ocean cinematography the way he wanted it.

"Hearts of Darkness;  A Filmaker's Apocalypse" (1991) showed Francis Ford Coppola efforts to product "Apocalypse Now"  I remember a tremendous long time effort involving uncooperative actor and the determination to complete the film.

After the background story I had to see "Apocalypse Now"  Lots of violence, but the main theme was about the evil in mankind.  Starred Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando.  I had read "Heart of Darkness" in high school, but had not seen the movie.

"Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962) from play by Tennessee Williams with some changes due to censorship concerns and given a happy ending.  Paul Newman, Geraldine  Paige, Ed Begley were standouts.

"The Remains of the Day" (1993) wasn't quite the slow movie I anticipated.  It pointed to a time when some English aristocrats had Nazi sympathies.  Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson were outstanding with excellent support from Christoper Reeves, Tim Smith Pigott, Hugh Grant.  Respect for the author and also screen writer.

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher winning 5 Oscars.  Directed by Milos Forman.

"Amadeus" (1984) seen for the second time after its original theatrical run.   I like Mozart's music, but this is not a biography of him.  The main character, Antonio Salieri feels jealousy and rejected by a God that gives real musical talent to a immature person.  There is lots of enjoyable music. 

"The People vs. Larry Flynt" (1996) was available when I was writing about Milos Forman, but I didn't want to associate myself too closely with a pornographic subject.  As often happens looking for a filler I picked it up.  A lot of people would consider it more pornographic than even many restricted movies it does get to the issue of freedom of speech.  Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love (who presented an insurance problem to the producers) and Ed Norton were all excellent.  Interesting parts played by Jim Carville (a favorite left wing commentator) as a right wing prosecutor and Larry Flynt himself played a judge who in the script sentenced himself to jail time.  There was a lot of conflict with the evangelical movement, but the one that caught me was a self righteous religious authority played by James Cromwell who turned out to be Charles Keating who was instrumental in a multi billion dollar fraud.  A significant part of Milos Forman's career which you can catch a little of with the link to Czech  films down below.

In "Hotel Rwanda" (2004) had Sophie Okenedo and Don Cheadle each nominated for best Oscar acting awards.  The movie captured the dynamics of a genocide.

From 1998 "Enemy of the State"  a thriller that really thrills, but with a scary message.  The government has incredible access to information which can be abused.  Technology by 1998 was already well advanced and capable of invading anyone's privacy.  Will Smith and Gene Hackman were great.

Tarzan was an obsession as a youngster around 10 I used to watch the Johnny Weissmuller version on our home tv.  I used to yell like Tarzan or at least I thought I did.  One irony was that because we had only one tv my Grandmother used to watch with us.  My father pointed out that when he was my age his mother refused to let him watch Tarzan.  He had been raised during the depression and his parents were in their 40's when he was born.  I was part of the baby boomer generation and were given more freedom.  I think his mother, my grandmother got to like the Tarzan movies.  It struck me as very juvenile (in a fun way), but in the 1934 film, 'Tarzan and His Mate" one could spot more nudity than one would expect in family entertainment.  Also saw "Tarzan Finds a Son.' (1939)

In about grade 5 some school mates and myself somehow became obsessed with "The Jolson Story" (1946) and "Jolson Sings Again" (1949).   Both movies were watched probably more than  any other movie.  Perhaps some sixty years later they do seem dated, but I realize they played a role in my musical education.

"Hope and Glory" (1987) had a different perspective on the German blitz of London.  Told from a young boy's view it was like an adventure with lots of fun experiences although he lived through real danger.

East of Eden (1955) was one of only 3 movies that made James Dean a legend, at least in the mind of a former university room mate.  I missed that, but now many years later I can admit there was more to him.  He was nominated for Oscar along with director Elia Kazan, but Jo Van Fleet won for best supporting actress.  Also had Raymond Massey. 

"Splendor in the Grass" (1961) introduced Warren Beatty and also starred Natalie Wood.  William Inge won an Oscar for best script written directly to movie while Natalie was nominated for best actress and Warren was nominated for a Golden Globe.  Directed by Elia Kazan.

"McCabe and Mrs Miller" (1971) directed by Robert Altman was a realistic western  set in the northwest.  Warren Beatty and Julie Christie starred.   Reminded of an Hungarian connection with the cinematographer Vilmos Sgismond who had escaped after the Hungarian Revolution.  Realistic without romanticism (for the most part).

"Rachel, Rachel" (1968) was marked by Paul Newman first directing effort.  His wife Joanne Woodward, was the lead actress.  Based on a book by Candian author Margaret Laurence.  Apparently there was a big lobbying effort for Paul Newman and he and his wife both won Golden Globe awards. 

"Do the Right Thing" (1989)  by Spike Lee who had in some quarters a reputation of an angry black man.  He is an intelligent man using the film media to try to understand racial dynamics.  It is baed on one day, a very hot day in a black neighborhood centered around a pizzeria run by Italian Americans established many years previously.  There are a few hints of racial tension--a ghetto blaster, a wall full of photos of famous Italian Americans that upsets a black customer  black underclass mostly jobless & directionless--Korean storekeeper--riot, death

"Children of a Lesser God"( 1966) let us outsiders realize there was a big conflict between sign language and lip reading.--Prejudice is most obvious against visible minorities, but really we realize it is against differences such as communication and maybe especially thinking

"Matewan" (1987) a young Chris Cooper played a union organizer.  Racism was used by management to keep workers in place.  Black  (led by James Earl Jones) and Italians learned to co-operate despite their own prejudices. 

"Victim" a British film from 1961 was daring for its time.  Its contention was that the sodomy laws opened up possibilities for blackmail.  Starred Dirk Bogarde as a lawyer..

I had watched Tyrone Power remembering him mostly as a swashbuckler.  He was a pilot and saw action in World War II.  He wanted to shake his swashbuckler image and do some serious acting. "The Razors's Edge" was released in 1949 .  However he had ambitions to do serious acting. He campaigned hard for "Nightmare Alley" (1947) and despite a lot of resistance from producers he got his best acting reviews

Documentaries

"Home"  ecological movie from 2009.   Scary in that the warnings have proved valid and we still have not learned enough.  Reinforcing other  information sources it emphasized that trees were very critical with climate change.  As sea level rises it brings salt into river systems making water undrinkable.  We are all linked.

"Jane" (2017) about Jane Goodell was someone I have admired for years, but did not realize she was not trained scientifically, but was lucky enough to be a secretary with Dr Leakey who recognized her abilities.  Music by the distinctive (and enjoyable) Philip Glass.

"RBG" (2018)was about someone I have come to admire.  As used to be said, "behind every successful man is a woman" it is also true that "behind some successful women is a man."  Her husband, a successful man in his own right recognized in Ruth before their marriage that she was especially smart and dedicated.  She has had tremendous impact on American society.  Donald Trump would love to replace her, but it would be a loss for the rest of us, especially if he were the one. 

"Salmon Confidential" (2013) Scientists in British Columbia dealing with salmon dying from an unknown disease find themselves dealing with a ban of science knowledge

Sharkwater (2012) by Canadian Rob Stewart who paints a different film than common fears of sharks.  A reference to campaign to restrict shark fin soup.  Rob died in the process of filming "Sharkwater Extinction" in 2018.

Horse movies 

"Zameer" dealt with racing stud farm  Bollywood--lost son was able to communicate with horses the way his father could.  Early Amitabn Bachchan.

"12 Strong"  depicts the first American attackers after 9/11  to Afghanistan.  Circumstances suggested they travel by horse, not everyone had experience. They were confronted with tanks, but nevertheless met with success.   There is a  statue in NY near Twin Towers commemorating the events.

A special feature on Akira Kurosawa focused on "The Hidden Fortress" had quite a few comments on filming horses.  Akira Kurasawa greatly admired John Ford's horse filming.  He sped up camera speed to get a better view  on the horse's power and develeoped some tecniques involving lens and dollies.  Toshiro Mifune was considered his best rider and was shown in a scene when he pursues two other horsemen where he brandishes a sword overhead with hands off bridles.  Filmed a second time as first time camera not able to get full picture of horses.

"The Rider" a good movie with training horses.  A bronc rider injured.  There are actual participants after injuries.  I anticipated more emphasis on "breaking' the horses, but in fact "gentling" was the more effective term.

SUBTITLED 

Many will lose interest in this section, but you would be missing a lot.  My thoughts on the opportunity:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/09/do-subtitles-scare-you-who-knows-what.html

French

"Rules of the Game," came out just before WW II in 1939.  Considered a classic, directed by Jean Renoir, son of the famous painter.

"Roman de Gare" (2007) is about a ghost writer and false identities for an intrigueing mystery suspense movie. 

"Korkoro" set in War time Vichy France focused on Romany who are very distrustful and freedom loving.

"Back to Burgundy" (2017) is a family drama set against Burgundy wine

"Rapt"(2009) used a kidnap as a vehicle to reveal human nature.  A wealthy arrogant man is kidnapped and the viewer watches the drama of that, but also the drama of his family and business partners who learn that he had had gambling debts and had a number of mistresses.

"Skirt Day"(2009)  teacher intimidated by her students by fluke gets her hands on a gun and takes here students as hostages.  Most of them are Muslim and for various reasons don't do.  Lots of talk about anti-Muslim, feminism, immigrants.  It seems a worse problem in France than in the U.S. Starred Isabelle Adjani.

"Shoot The Piano Player" ( 1960) starred one of my favorite singers Charles Aznavour, but no singing, although he did play the piano player. Directed by Francois Truffaut, a Cannes winner and Oscar nominee.

Hispanic

"El Sur"(1993) seemed an ok, even artistic, but watching some of the special features opened my head.  The cinematographer was granted the option of using dark lighting for many scenes which had been considered undesirable.  The director, Victor Erice only made 3 movies and this one was not completed to original plans but was requested for Cannes.  It was claimed that the budget had run out, but it was also said there was a conflict with the producer.   "The Spirit of The Beehive"(1973) was considered another masterpiece with the cinematographer again being innovative with his work.  Censorship was a big concern.

"Time Sweep "(2016)watched because I was very charmed by Maria Nella Sinistera.  She played few minutes in this interesting movie, but was critical to plot.  From Argentina.

Pedro Almodovar has created a lot of attention for unconventional movies.  "All About My Mother"  (1999) won an Oscar for best foreign film and has an early Penelope Cruz as a supporting actress.

"A Fantastic Woman" from Chile won the 2018 Oscar for best foreign film.  My second movie about a transgender woman character (in this case the actress was as well).  Like the other one it helps to humanize people I am mostly unfamiliar with.  The difficulties of being transgender are told through the death of her lover and her inter actions with the family.  The music includes a little salsa and pleasant background music including two opera arias by the lead character, Daniela Vega.  Santiago was a bigger part of this movie than others I had seen from Chile and impresses as a cosmopolitan city.



Czech Republic

'Divided we Fall"  (2000) interesting plot, well acted and written
This was one of the films that inspired me to do a post on Czech cinema:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/06/czech-cinema.html

German

"The Silence" (2010) an excellent German murder mystery--Denmark's Ulrich Thomsen was one of the leads--the twist is different--title refers to a period of 23 years in which an accomplice kept quiet

"The Wall" from Austria had a science fiction base.   The main character is trapped by invisible walls.  She has her loyal dog and later a cow and a cat with a few wild deer to hunt.   Slow moving, but with great landscape shots set in Austrian Alps.

A classic from 1931, "M"  Compelling over 80 years later. This movie brought Peter Lorre to attention and led him to act several classic American movies.  Unusual in that the crooks and the police worked to find the schizo pedophile.  He eventually was cornered and confronted his attackers.  He claimed eloquently that he couldn't help himself.

"Veronika Voss" (1982) might remind some of "Sunset Boulevard" as it about a washed up actress.  She is being taken advantage of.  Well done, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.  Won a TIFF award.

Denmark

"Land of Mine" (2015 )from Denmark received an Oscar nomination.  Tension comes from needing to defuse mines and the hostility of the local citizens.   It portrays the Danes as villains and the Germans as victims.  The director, Martin Zandvliet  commented on financing came a lot from Germany.  The Danes were seeking revenge against German atrocities, but took it out on the young boys recruited by desperate German military.

Polish

"Loving Vincent" (2017 was )another visual treat--an interesting story that connects to a song I heard probably 50 years ago--Don McLean's,  "Starry Starry Night" which I now realize was not some teenage angst, but a story about Vinceny De Gogh--he was said to have died after suicide attempt that took a few days, but had been preceded by mental illness.  Another theory was that he was shot in the stomach (the angle suggested it was not self inflicted).  Was selected by the AGH film festival and I had seen in the trailer.--done by paintings  presented in an animated form--originally by Polish

Romania

Finally able to view four movies of Cristian Mongiu  "Four Months, three weeks two days" (2007)is one of the most gut wrenching movies I have seen.  The topic is abortion, but it is not likely to change anyone's opinion.  It is depicted as a horrid action prompted out of desperation.  Cristian has done a few thought provoking films you can read about here:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/10/cristian-mongiu-filmaker-from-romania.html

Finland

"Open Up to Me"(2013)about a transgender woman who gets entangled with a problematic family.  Second movie with a likeable transgendered women.

"The Other Side of Hope" (2017) focused on refugees to Finland.  Directed by Aki Kaurismaki.

"Tom of Finland" (2017)shows  us straights don't quite understand how it works.  Heterosexuals especially in the past had awkward efforts to connect.  Obviously so do gays who have to identify one another when most were closeted.  In this film the hero is an artist and does explicit homo erotic drawings.  After many years he is convinced to share them publicly.  This movie goes through the Aids crisis and the artistic contributes to an effort for safe sex.

Norway

"Troubled Water" (2008) directed by Erik Poppe  Protagonist was a church organist the music was very good as well as cinematography.  They borrowed Danish actress Trine Dryholm.

Israel

"The Cakemaker" (2017) was a surprise.  A superficial synopsis doesn't do it justice.  It is very well done.  An unusual love story surrounded by grief.  Israel's nomination for Oscar foreign film award for 2019.    

Bollywood

The highest rated movie was seen just before Christmas on Netflix, "Andhandun" (2018) with Ayushmann Khurrana and Tabu, both of who were sensational.  It deserved its high marks.  It has some unexpected twists.  The background music and a few songs lend some atmosphere.  Ayushmann plays a blind pianist.  Written and directed by Sririam Raghaven.  One of my three favorites for the year.

More on Ayushmann:
http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/ayushmann-khuranna-actor-to-watch.html

more on Tabu, one of my more popular blogs:
http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/12/tabu.html




"Raazi" (2018)was very exciting, tense.and credible..  Alia Bhatt is excellent and is well supported.  Good music from Shankar Ehsaan Loy.  One comment I read was that the actors playing the enemy Pakistannis were not caricatures.   There were a lot of good Bollywood movies this year, but I would say this one had the most tension. Another of my three favorites for the year. 

Just after posting evaluating negative movie review (https://bit.ly/2MEb9I8 ) I watched "Khatha Meetha" (2010)--several characters die on screen while other deaths referred to, but I couldn't help laughing a number of times--the overwhelming theme was of corruption with even our hero played by Akshay Kumar was corrupt, but struggling--after a happy ending you could appreciate corruption impacts too many people in India

Sridevi died tragically at age 54. Had seen her in two movies as a mature adult--"English Vinglish" and "Mom"--excellent--saw a very few older movies--"Sadma" with Silk Smitha (the model for "Dirty Pictur"e)  Her daughter Janhvi Kapoor made a debut in "Dhadak"(2018) a remake of "Sairat" my favorite movie two years ago.  The movie and she received very bad reviews, but I was struck at how much she resembles her mother and thought that some adaptations were meaningful. The leading male was Ishaan Khattar.

"Damini" (1993) with Sunny Deol.  He was a rival with Shah Rukh Khan.  Sunny was more popular, but another movie in 1993 provided Shah Rukh a big break at the expense of Sunny--personally think it was best.

Bareilly ki Barfi  (2017) a variation on Cyrano de Bergerac starring  Ayushmann Khuranna

"Manorama: Six Feet Under" (2007) with Abhay Deol playing a corrupt official, caught and fired and asked to to spy on possible adultery.  Very suspenseful and well done.   Vinay Pathak plays a supporting role different from what many of his fans might have expected.

"Ittefaq" (2017) is about resolving some conflicting testimony about a crime.  Akshaye Khanna plays the detective while Sidharth Malhotra and Sonakshi Sinha play the two suspects.  Well done.

"Devi Ahilya Bai" (2002)  is an historical drama about an 18th century woman who rose to leadership and builder.

"Phas Gaye Re Obama"- (2010) with Rajat Kapoor in a clever comedy regarding corruption. An NRI (no resident Indian) is about to lose his house in New Jersey during the 2008 re recession and decides the only course is to sell his ancestral home in India.  But he finds nobody wants to buy it during the recession.  We are acquainted with several kidnapping groups who are all suffering due to the recession.  They decide to kidnap our  hero not realizing he has less money than them.  Although threatened he finally convinced the first group that he could recoup their expense and help them make a profit if they would sell him to another group who didn't realize he was poor..  He ended up wiring money to his wife, but this group soon realizes they have lost out, but he has another idea, really the same is to sell to another group and this turns out to be a group of women (who could be bawdy house) and they are tougher and smarter than the first group.  Again he sets up another sell off to a bigger group -this time to a politician who wants to make money to get a higher political office.  He is tougher than the others, but again our hero outsmarts them and turns it around so the politician is seen as a rescuer and is praised by many  for the next level.  Bollywood accused of being over the top, but this movie is not--just funny and well done.

"Chalo Dilli"  (2011)another comedy that caught my fancy.  It had a message that hits home towards the end.   Check out more details:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/04/chalo-dilli-deals-with-snobbery.html

"Secret Superstar" (2017) had the most hysterical laughter plus brought tears to my eyes (not for sadness),  Aamir Khan is very versatile and was a producer.  The lead girl Zaira Wasim played a small role in a previous movie, "Dangal."   Very well done.



"Raid" (2018) with Ajay Devgn was about tax collections.  It showed an extreme example of a wealthy man avoiding tax.  Intimidation and courage were contrasted.  It is good to see a movie extolling the virtue of paying and collecting taxes for the good of all.




"Hichki" (2018)  is about a woman with Tourette's Syndrome, but really it is about education.  Rani Mukerji has Tourette's and is unable to get a teacher position because of it until she agrees to teach kids from the slums.  It deals with a lot of prejudice realistically, but contrives for a happy ending.  Inspiring.  In this case there is little if any swearing which is a common way of portraying Tourette's.

"Gulaal" (2009) is considered one of Anurag Kaahyup's best films, although not very successful at box office.  It is political involving corruption and violence.   Kay Kay Menon heads the cast.

"Tikli and Laksmi Bomb"(2017) is about a group of prostitutes in Mumbai who set up their own system cutting out pimps.  They develop some innovative procedures to take over from their male controllers.  There are laughs, but there are also tears.  At the end the viewer will appreciate it is an ongoing battle, but a little progress is made.

"102 Not Out"(2018) seemed at first to be a typical Bollywood comedy, but before too long you realized there was more to it.  The premise was that the 102 year old was more physically active and modern than his 75 year old son.  However nothing was quite as it appears.  Amitabh Bachchan adding more to his impressive career.

"Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran,"(2018) is about how India developed a superior nuclear bomb.  A lot of intrigue with satellites and CIA and Pakistani  Americans come across as self righteous.  Most of us believe that nuclear proliferation is one of mankind's most dangerous possibilities, but you could interpret this movie to demonstrate the fear that drives it.

"Beyond the Clouds"(2017)  was written and directed by Iranian Majid Majidi c, an internationally awarded film makers. A very emotional movie.  Ishaan Khattar won a debut award.  A R Rahman wrote the music.

"Padman" (2018) gives Akshay Kumar (who has Canadian connections) another cause to boost.  Women;s menstruation has always been a taboo subject, never more than in India.  It wasn't as though sanitary pads were unknown, but they were far too expensive for Indian women and this caused disease and even dying.   Based on a true story.  An interesting detail is that Amitabh Bachchan was used to further  boost the cause and given credit for the name Padman (based on Superman, Spiderman, etc)   Had an effect on women's education and economic prospects.

"Once Again" (2018) is a mature love story with an older movie star by a fluke meets a widow who runs a catering business that services him--she doesn't like the attention and her family also resents her late life romance.  Well acted by Neeraj Kobi and Shefali Shah.

Within  the last two days of the year I lucked upon a movie I wanted to include in this overlong blog post.  "Chakravyuh" (2012) is in many ways a typical Bollywood movie with emphasis on action, violence and a few unnecessary item numbers, but it made me more aware of an Indian issue that has been glossed over in a few other movies that mentioned it.  Essentially the Naxalite movement is one of violent protest.  Previously in other movies they have been depicted as backward people not understanding the need for modernity.  In fact they are the dispossessed, unable to change their circumstances in conventional ways have sought desperate means.   Directed by Prakash Jha noted for his political movies it is entertaining, but for me opens my eyes that as often as in Hollywood, Bollywood entertainment can minimize reality.  This movie does show that the 1% can be greedy and merciless in achieving their goals.

REGIONAL INDIAN MOVIES

"The Hero" from 1966 is a Bengali film done by Satyajit Ray, considered one of the early masters of Indian cinema.   Sharmila Tagore is famous as a relation of famous poet plus she married into Indian royalty who also happened to be the top Indian cricket player and has left two actors in Bollywood. Her son, Saif Ali Khan and daughter  Soha Ali Khan are well established in Bollywood.  She explained that because of economics Satyajit usually took only one take for a scene, but was well prepared.  The lead, Utta Kumar     was well composed to portray a big movie star having doubts, perhaps because in reality he was a big movie star.  On commentator thought this film was modeled on Marcello Mastroianni in 8 1/2.

 In "The Silence" (2015) Marathi is listed as the second language, but I suspect it was primary--the bad guy was played by the director/writer of my top film for 2017, Nagra Manjule.

Looking over a list of top rated Indian films I was surprised to see a 1987 Tamil film, "Vallu Nayakan."  It is a gangster movie, but in the same league as "The Godfather."  The essential commonality was that they both started with the protagonist correcting an injustice and then being asked to deal with other injustices and taking up activities against the authorities. Each had a unique set of circumstances.  It had the contributions of three legendary film artists.  Mani Ratnam, produced, directed and wrote the script.  He has mostly done movies in southern India, but has succeeded all over.  Ilayarraga wrote the music--he was the first Asian to score a symphony for the London Philharmonic Orchestra.   The lead actor, Kamal Haasan is accomplished not only as an actor, but also as writer, director, producer playback singer, and even choreographer.  In this movie he compares very well to the Marlon Brando role from a young man to an elder.   This should be regarded as a world classic.

"Sometimes" (2016) is a Tamil film to publicize the need to be more understanding of HIV and Aids.  Six people with different back stories worry they might have aids.   The suspense holds to the end .

A surprise was "Robot" (2010--"Enthiran) in Tamil which like a lot of today's blockbusters are big on special effects and it was very effective  The star was Rajnikanth along with Aisharwaya Rai. Bachchan.  The story did have a message--artificial intelligence can be abused.

Shubh Aarabh (2017) is a Gujariti film with an interesting plot involving a marriage counsellor in an arranged marriage.  She learns her groom's parents are planning a divorce. Lots of laughs, a little drama and lovely background music.

"Naa Banagaru Talli"  (2013) is about sex trafficking, but with a horrible twist of deception  Very well done in the Telegu language.  Siddique had been the lead in the Malayam version of "Drishyam."  His daughter was played by Anjali Patil who had appeared in Bollywood movies plus from Sri Lanka.


"Children of War" (2014) is of two languages, Hindi and Bengali (I do not recognize the difference).  It was about the genocide of East Pakistan which paved the way for independence of Bangladesh.  Rape was used as a weapon of humiliation.  At end one pregnant female looks longingly at a man and then walks away, but he grabs her by the hand accepting the reality which was a big relief after the horrific violence shown before.  Background music was stirring

"Jindua" (2017) was set in Calgary, Alberta as a romance drama.  Jimmy Shergill, a moderately successful Bollywood actor here plays an immigrant forced to seek Canadian citizenship, but in the process rejects his true love.  Shergill is a Punjabi speaker and apparently there are enough Punjabi speakers in Calgary to justify this effort.

Chinese

"Touch of the Light" (2012) from Taiwan is not slick.  Inspirational a true story  with the hero playing himself.   A dancer inspired by a blind pianist who in turn is encouraged by her.  Only a tease of a romance.  Some very pleasant music, some of it written by the subject.

In Love we Trust  (2007) Mandarin speaker Xiashuai Wang was director and writer --emotionally tense--child with cancer needing a bone marrow transplant--needs a match--after some strategies fail--it comes down to parents, now divorced to have another child--new spouses concerned--a few realistic complications--attention to detail in plotting--one child policy--also saw "11 Flowers, "also worth seeing and "The Drifters" This is ranked in my top three for the year.  More details at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/08/in-love-we-trust-is-movie-title-with.html

"Happy Together"(1997) from Hong Kong meaning mostly in Cantonese.  It is   considered one of all time best films about a gay couple on verge of breaking up after traveling  to Argentina




Japanese

"The Naked Island" (1960) had no dialogue and depicted a very harsh life by peasants. 

"Kagemusha" (1980) colour movie by Akira Kurosawa--his first film in 5 years bolstered by admirers, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola who agreed to be producers  

"High and Low"(1963) a kidnapping suspense movie.  Learned that Kurosawa does editing and considers a goal to do a scene as short as practical.   Based on book by Ed McBain

"Rhapsody in August" was Kurosawa's 2nd to last film and is often passed over in deference to his earlier masterpieces.   There were three generations reacting to the atomic  bombing of Nagasaki.  Richard Gere takes part as a part Japanese relative.  It is a difficult topic, but makes one more conscious of man's inhumanity to others.

Also saw two more Kurosawa films; "No Regrets for our youth" and "Dersu Uzala" (1975), collaboration with Russia. 

Thailand

"Bad Genius" (2017) is not my first Thai movie, but it is the most entertaining.  It is very clever and professional.  I think of it as a heist movie, but without a bank or valuable jewels.  Students are wanting to get the answers to important university entrance tests and the bad genius is very creative.  Read more about it:   https://bit.ly/2ytQJs5

Emboldened by "Bad Genius" on Netflix I checked out another Thai movie, "One Day" (2016)  This was a highly rated romantic comedy.  A familiar type of plot--loser pining after an unobtainable girl gets a lucky break, very contrived involving memory loss of only one day.  Actually most of the scenes were set in Hokkaido and Sapporo, Japan. in the winter time.  Very slickly done with an ending that begs for a sequel.  Noticing a pattern similar to Bollywood where scenery outside the native land helps entice local viewers with a glance of places like Australia and Japan

Korean

"The Age of Shadows"  (2016) was about Korean resistance against Japan during World War II.  A double agent adds to the suspense.   Written and directed by Jee-woon Kim.

"Forgotten" (2017) is a psychological movie with a very big twist most of us won't catch.

"Silenced" (2011)  was about a sexual abuse case at a school for the deaf. The frightening thing was how well connected people can gang up and abuse disadvantaged children.   Well done.  A quote, "We should not fight to change the world itself, but stop it from changing who we are."

Not a fan of Zombie movies, but after watching "Silenced" I enjoyed the two leading characters and noticed they were both in "Train to Busan." (2016).  I decided to take a chance.  It would satisfy most Zombie fans, but I felt there was a lot more on human relationships and I loved the music by Young-gyo Jung  over the credits.  One disappointmen was that the two characters again never paired off, but were both very good along with a good supporting cast.

"Along with the Gods Two Worlds," (2017) was a fantasy with amazing CGI, but more an interesting account of the meaning of life.

"How to Steal a Dog" was a bit frivolous with a family moral.  It was told from a child's point of view.  The young girl had been the lead in a very hard hitting movie  "Hope" or you can find it under "Wish" about an 8 year old girl who is violently sexually attacked. http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/11/hope-gut-wrenching-film-from-korea.html

Philippines

"Manila in the Claws of Light" (1975) is only the second Filipino movie I have seen.  Filmed in 1974 under the direction of Lino Brocka during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.  Introduced by Martin Scorsese who borrowed the ending for his movie, "Taxi."  There is a love story, but it also carries a political message.  Corruption is very evident.

Indonesia

"The Look of Silence" (2014) was a multi national effort regarding a genocide in the 1960's. This film would not be possible without careful political manoeuvering., luck and courage.  Originally  the director Joshua Oppenheimer, set out to talk with victims of the genocide, but circumstances encouraged them to talk to perpetrators.  Surprisingly they boasted of their deeds in front of their own relatives.  Adi, Rukan a brother of one of the victims actually confronted many of the perpetrators.  Horrifying tales of killing "Communists" mutilating and drinking of blood.   Told very matter of factly.  The protagonist was an optometrist and actually tested some and provided glasses.  Many of the perpetrators and their families either justified what was done or avoided responsibility.

Middle East

"The Insult" (2014) is like a petty quarrel between two stubborn men, but it is much more than that.  It is also very well executed, from Lebanon.  For many North Americans the Middle East is a scary place with all sorts of warring factions.  This movie is layered as in life there is always more than is readily apparent.  The characters themselves change their attitudes as they learn more.  One hopeful sign is that women's influence is increasing. The director decided to show a generational shift in attitude which is especially evident in that opposing lawyers are actually father and daughter.  More at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/09/the-insult_21.html

Afterwards I also watched "The Attack" (2012) by the same director, Ziad Doueiri with a powerful message.  In the effort to integrate willing Arabs into the Israeli economy there is still likely resentment for those very many who are left out.

It can be misleading to rate and rank films, but nonetheless the ones that are pictured/linked had the most impact on me.

To see my most memorable movies of 2017:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/12/2017-great-year-for-movies.html