Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Designated Survivor: 60 days a remake of American series

My memory fades of the original American version and is mingled with all three seasons.  The American and Korean versions both have lots of twists and lots of action.  The first two seasons were edge of the seat exciting, but to me at least became tedious for the third season.

The main plot revolves around an explosion that kills off the legislators and allow a very lowly person on the totem pole to become the head of the nation. Tipping over the power structure of a nation lends itself to interesting plots.

The Korean series has a higher IMDB rating and is much shorter.  The greater length of the American version in my opinion hurts as after awhile the inevitable violence becomes tedious.  The "60 days" in the Korean title deals with the immediate problems after an almost inconceivable disaster and don't try to drag the plot to inevitable complications

The Korean version although following much of the plot outline uses at least two unique tools:  North Korea and a proposed Discrimination Act.

The Korean version is more focused on the political power struggle.  I felt there was more emphasis on the actual  explosion.  Secretary Han Soo Jeung is good in his explanations of power, when fired, praises president for finally exercising power.  The leading character is a political neophyte with many players plotting his downfall, but he is more steely in his character core.  He is a   master of psychology illustrated a few times by his understanding of the basic motives of others

The first suspect is North Korea and a video seems to corroborate the notion prompting American military representatives to jump in.  Japanese are also moving in.  Defectors soon find themselves subjected to violence.  Before too long conflicts between Cambodia and Vietnam impinge on the investigation of the source of the explosion.  North Korean defectors (most of whom had risked their lives to escape a tyany) become scapegoats in a strategy for a mayor to gain credibility for a run at president.    The opposition leader is a clever, but also decent.

Both movies depict the media leaking sensitive information and manipulating for their own benefit--doesn't that ring true?

A Discrimination bill that might lead to same sex marriages was by my understanding a very contentious issue today, Korea has resisted recognizing same sex marriages.  Recently in a report regarding declining births they did recognize the importance of families but deliberately left out same sex parents

Power is intoxicating.  The hero at first sincerely claimed he wanted to go back to teaching,but  realized that he would be leaving power to the politically minded.  After the 60 days are up and an election has finished there is a sort of postscript that good intentions sometimes do have lingering effects.

The people who made this memorable film deserve some recognition.  The following is little more than a token, but I believe at least some of these names will go on to do other remarkable accomplishments.

Directed by Jong Sun Yoo who had done parts of three earlier series with this being his first to direct all 16 episodes.

Written by Tae Hee Kim who has been writing tv scripts since 2006.

Jin-hee Jin-plays the acting president.  He projects a naive, timid idealist sort of image, but in fact you realize he is wise to delay making decisions based on political calculations.  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/10/the-wisest-one-in-room.html  He has been performing since 2002 and recently had a role in "Move to Heaven" (2021).  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/09/move-to-heaven-wow.html

Jun-ho Huh plays the older advisor, Han Soo Jeung.  He appeared in a blockbuster"Simido" (2003) and won a Supporting Actor award.  A revered actor for over 30 years he runs a musical and acting academy out of Los Angeles.   He is very key to appreciating this series.

Kim Joo-Heon plays a security boss.  His distinctive voice was recognized from  "It's Okay Not To Be Okay" (2020).  He also appeared in "Train to Busan" (2016).  Check  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/03/its-okay-not-to-be-okay.html

Kang Han-na played the female security agent with impressive action scenes.  She has been in Korean films since 2013.

 With political movies the hope always is the possibility for a good person to get good things done?  There is a lot of realism in this series, but some idealism as well.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Squid Game

Korea makes a lot of money exporting cars, computers, and all kinds of electronics.  All of these items are concrete.  They also export culture which in essence is ideas.  K-Pop has made inroads on our airwaves and last year a Korean movie actually won the Best Picture Oscar.  Now with the blessing of Netflix, the Koreans are invading televisions series in a very big way.  

"Squib Game" has had a greater impact on Netflix than any other tv. series.  Many of you have noticed, but more is to come.

What is the attraction?  Unexpected violence leading to death plays a role, but what stands out is that there seems to be no justification for the violence.  The killings are just called "eliminated" for playing a game.  

The cruelty is stunning.  It is difficult to determine a motive for setting up such cruelty, but an expressed sentiment is sort of an explanation.  If you have too much money, life is boring, if you have no money life is no fun.  Harken back to Roman times when gladiators fought to the death which was sometimes averted if the crowd signaled that preference.  It was not just the idle rich that passed judgment, but often included the hoi polloi.  It was all for entertainment and it must be admitted that cruelty draws attention.

The dynamics when lives are at stake can be tense.  There are six games and the participants can only guess what they are.  There are twists galore.  There are cheaters among both the participants and the staff administering the games.  The police have tried to infiltrate.  Each participant is desperate for different reasons.  Most of them are heavily in debt with no prospect for getting out. 

"Parasite" (2019)was a bit deceptive, but in reality it depicted class differences and that modern Korea had a degree of inequality--like the rest of the world.  It seems inevitable that inequality will be with us forever, but historically there have been resets--due to such things as pestilence and violence.  Check out:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/01/the-great-leveler-violence-and.html

"Squib Game" highlights inequality and while it is highly entertaining, it should also be thought provoking.  Do we want some segments of our population desperate while another segment exploits them for personal profit (for their amusement).  The end should make viewers concerned about the direction of our society.

Other films have attempted to convey such themes entertainingly with various degrees of success.  Here are a few contributors to the success of "Squib Game."

Director, writer and producer Hwang Dong-hyuk   Directed and wrote "Silenced" (2011) and "Miss Granny" (2014), both highly regarded by me.   Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/comparing-two-grannies.html

Jaeil Jung, composed the music and earlier had done "Okja" (2017) and "Parasite" (2019).

Lee Jung-jae, the leading protagonist is a fashion model.  His face seemed vaguely familiar and it turns out many of his films are on my list.  "The Housemaid" (2010),  "The Thieves" (2012),  "Assassination" (2015),  and "Along with the Gods: The Two worlds" (2017).

Oh Yeong-su played an old man on the verge of dementia who turned out to be more useful than first thought.  Despite his age there are only a few screen credits, one of which I have seen.  "Spring,Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring" (2003).

Anupam Tripathi played a Pakistani immigrant, another desperate participant.  Born in India he picked up an interest in theatre while there, but ended up moving to Korea where he was able to not only learn the language, but able to gain small roles.  His role in "Squib Game" was his first feature and ironically there is supposed to be Urdu dialogue, but Anupam is listed as speaking English, Korean and Hindi. 

Jung Hoyeon played a North Korean defector and created quite a stir from her role that launched her to a huge Instagram following.  Prior to this role she was well established as a fashion model and had only been in video shorts.  Surprised to learn she has been known for her red hair.  Don't be surprised when she makes a bigger splash, not just in Korea, but in the English speaking world.

If this got you hooked on Korean films you could check out some of the following:

Parasite won 3 Oscars:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/09/parasite-breaks-oscar-tradition.html

"Crash landing on You" (20190:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/02/crash-landing-on-you-very-addicting.html

Right now I am enjoying "Designated Survivor:  60 Days" and feeling it provides the same tension as the American original.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Telegu Remake Opens My Eyes

A confession.  A disease or addiction affects my blogs.  Not content with watching a film, my computer, music collection and household chores vie for my limited attention.  Occasionally some subtle point in a film might get missed.  Sometimes I might never catch on to the missing details, but sometimes with a little luck my awareness is expanded.

 Recently a remake of masterful original film made me conscious that paying attention does pay off.  Multi tasking is a risky, but hard to discard habit and I am aware of that.  The Telegu film industry was impressed by a very profitable Bollywood movie, "Andhadhun" (2018) and decided to make a project of converting the script from Hindi to Telegu. The remake, "Maestro" (2021) convinced me the original was better than I had acknowledged.  Watching a familiar movie a subsequent time usually yields deeper understanding and appreciation and this worked well for me.  Both are available on Netfllix.

The original inspiration was a 14 minute French film, "L'accordeur" (The Piano Tuner 2010) written and directed by Olivier Treiner about a pianist who despairs and becomes a piano tuner.  He pretends to be blind so that he can gain better understanding of his customers.  As a blind man he sees things he shouldn't. 

Why would anyone pretend to be blind?  Even the explanation seems weak.  A musician felt he would focus better.  Under his guise in quick succession he witnesses two murders, but maintains his pretense in a quick response (don't worry it is all subtitled).  In short order there was another twist (one that I missed) that complicated the plot which not only involved staying alive, but also a little romance.  The complications result in more twists and you are constantly wondering when it will unwind.  Very enjoyable journey.

It is comedic, but often in a macabre sense, apparently inspired by "Fargo" (1996).   It begins in mysterious fashion that seems unrelated to what you anticipate.  It becomes a thriller with lots of twists.  It does eventually tie into the main thread and will jog your memory a bit.  

A charitable cause, organ donations, weaves naturally into the plot (more so with "Maestro") and hopefully make you aware of a great need.  My father-in-law had one friend who had frightening heart problems that worried the friend's brother as well as my father in law.  Ironically with a heart transplant he outlived the two worriers and enjoyed another grandchild.   Inspired me to sign the donor line on driver's license. 

The strength of both films are the people behind them.  Obviously an overlap of writers is a key factor, but the Telegu film makers were prepared to take advantage of the Bollywood groundwork.

Sriram Raghavan with a writing crew including Pooja Ladha Surti, Hermanth M. Tao, Yogesh Chandekar and Arijit Biswas all of whom also worked on "Maestro".  Additional experienced writers, Merlapaka Gandhi and Sheik Dawood G. were brought in for the Telegu version.  Sriam wrote and directed " Ek Hasina Thi" (2004), "Agent Vinod" (2012) and "Badlapur" (2015).

Ayushmann  Khuranna was not the first choice for the lead role of Akash in "Andhadhun", but he was exceptionally suited.  He has great comic timing and some musical experience.  He had appeared in some good socially relevant movies such as "Vicky Donor" (2012), "Dum Laga Ke Haish" (2015), "Shubh Mangal Savdhan" 2017) and has gone to do "Badhaai Ho" (2018) and "Article 15" (2019).   Ayushmann praticised piano under the guidance of Akshay Verma for two months.  Check more:http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/ayushmann-khuranna-actor-to-watch.html

Tabu plays Simi, the adulterous murderer.  Seen as very strong woman in such films as "Maqbool"  (2003),"Fanaa" (2006), "Drishyam"(2015) and "Talvar" (2015).  But she also illustrated a deft comic touch in such films as "Cheeni Kum" (2007).  She with Irrfan Khan was a winner of an award for "Best Seduction" in the American film, "The Namesake" (2006).  There is an easy to miss reference to her Lady MacBeth role.  Check for more at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/12/tabu.html

Radhika Apte played the romantic interest.  She graduated with a degree in Economics and Mathematics.  She began acting in theatre and moved into film.  She has performed in Hindi, Bengali, Telgu, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam and English (where she spoke some French).  Her films include "Lion" 2015), "Manjhi:  The Mountrain Man" (2015), "Pad Man" (2018), "Sacred Games" (2018),  and "A Call to Spy" (2019)

Merlapaka Gandhi directed the Telegu version for his second effort.  He was better established as a writer for the Telegu market and was also involved with script additions to "Maestro".

Nithin plays the piano player Arun.  His father was Sudhakar Reddy, a noted Telegu film producer.  He has been in films since 2001.

Tamannaah Bhatia has appeared in "It's Entertainment" (2014), the block buster, "Baahubali:  The Beginning" 2015) and Baahubali 2:The Conclusion" (2017).   She has appeared in Telegu, Hindi and Tamil films.

Nabha Natesh plays the love interest Sophie.  She has appeared in Kanada and Telegu films.

Which of these two is better?  They are both very enjoyable to watch.  I admit I am a very big fan of both Ayushman Khurrana and Tabu and have been noticing Radhika Apte as she builds her career including in English.  Also one of my favorite songs from my favorite male singers Arijit Singh appear at the end.  On the other hand  Maestro has the advantage of the same crew of writers plus a few additional Telegu scripters to add in their own twists.  You can't go wrong. 

Remakes are a fairly common way of reducing risks in the expensive film making business.  Some earlier blogs on some good examples.

Ayushmann has experienced one of his movies being remade as in:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/vicky-donor-cf-dharala-prabhu.html    

Bollywood gets some of its most profitable ideas from the regional markets as in:   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/arjun-reddy-and-kabir-singh.html

Personally multi-tasking has its limitations.  That is the problem in today's world; there are too many interesting and even important things to pay some attention to.  I apologize for having slighted some things I have blogged about, but will continue to try to cover a wide range of interests.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, another delightful Korean series

Now that "Squid"(2021) has topped the ratings on Netflix, my addiction to Korean mini series might be more socially acceptable.  In truth  I find them very compelling.  I try to watch a variety of films, but keep coming back to the Korean tv. series.  "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha" is another example of Netflix's investment to Korean films. 

 Watched over a period of over a month, having to wait for new episodes.  Similar to the old time television experience.  However the mood changed.  It was mostly comedic, but it changed sharply towards the end and made you realize that the good mood had been a reaction to the unknown events.

 Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha  basically is a typical romance comedy.  The hero and his leading lady are very likable.  We only know that he is "unemployed" except he is always in demand for part time problems as he appears to be an expert in a wide range of skills.  We also learn early that he is from this small resort town, Gongiin, but had been away for five years.  He enjoys life and is not compelled to make a lot of money--he charges minimum wages for his part time jobs.   He enjoys surfing, cooking and reading.

Into Gonjin comes a young attractive dentist.  She had been taken advantage of by her employer in a dental clinic in the big city of Seoul (which really is a very big city).  She had been in Gonjin as a young girl and by a set of flukey circumstances decided to open a clinic.  Her view on life is a little different.  She likes good clothes and the good life.  

At first they run into each other and the girl finds him annoying, but interesting.  In this town everyone loves the guy as he is so considerate, fair and talented.  There are lots of family dynamics and outsiders are occasionally brought in to spice up things.

Eventually the missing five years becomes an obstacle.  Every romance has to survive some conflict and this one is dramatic and done effectively. 

This was director Yoo Je Won's sixth tv. series.  Part of the story involved a play within a play and included relationships between the director and the town that carries right through to the end.

Shin Ha-Eun wrote the script and made one of the supporting characters a writer.

I am trying to learn more about the music, some of which is available on iTunes.

Shin Min-A plays the normally cheery dentist, Yoon Hye Jin.  Apparently when she was in school she sent a photo at school picnic and was chosen as a model.  She looks a lot younger than her experience would indicate as she has been in series since 2001 and has won best actress awards twice.

Kim Seon-Ho plays the likable part timer known as Chief Hong or Hong Du Sik.  In a number of films he started out as a supporting actor, but was later elevated.  He is given as an example of Second Lead Syndrome which is where audiences root for the second lead male in a drama and wish the female lead would choose him although they know that won't happen).  He truly is a very likable character, but does demonstrate a range of emotions. 

Lee Bong-ryun plays Yeo Hwa Jeong, the lead's close friend and assistant who has a romance of her own.  She has appeared in "Okja" (2017) and "Burning" (2018).

Kim-Young-ok  plays an elderly lady who played a critical role in Chief Hong's life.  She has a role in "Squid Game" (2021).

An engaging story keeps you wanting to know what happens next.  There are always surprises in each episode.   A lot of loose ends were tidily resolved by the end of the final episode.

For a broader view of how subtitled movies can add enjoyment and understanding check out:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/06/what-sub-titles-offer-you.html

I just started watching "Squid Game" and likely will do a blog on it.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Winter Sleep, a Turkish masterpiece

 Long movies require patience and concentration.  But there is a lot of meat in some long movies.  A Turkish film "Winter Sleeps" (2014) is the longest film (3 hours and 16 minutes) to ever win the Cannes Festival Palm d'Or.  There is a lot to ponder, but on the other hand you might feel some resonance in your own life.

Aydin is a retired actor who has taken over the family hotel located in a mountainous region of Turkey.  He feels he is a realist, but is very cynical in talks with his divorced sister and much younger wife.  His wife Nihal feels stifled and tries to establish some independence while he talks down to her.  She explodes and makes demands that he mostly belittles and claims he doesn't care what she decides to do.  In the end the husband and wife realize they cannot control the other and seem to bend and make the best of an unhappy situation.  Others might interpret this film differently, but most would agree there is an unhealthy tension between husband and wife demanding some sort of resolution.

The movie was loosely based on two short stories of Anton Chekhov.  There turned out to be over 200 hours of film that was cut down to four hours and 30 minutes with a lot of tough decisions to get down to final size 3 hours and 16 minutes. 

Nuri Bilge Ceylan was born in Istanbul.  While studying Electrical Engineering he started studying films.  After traveling and military service he started making films.  A short film became the first Turkish short film chosen for competition and won competition at Cannes  In his early films he was involved with cinematography, editing, sound design as well as writing and directing.  His films deal with alienation, existentialism in everyday life.  He found inspiration from Anton Chekhov's stories.  Some of his films include "Three Monkeys" (2008), "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" (2011) and "The Wild Pear Tree" (2018).

 "Winter Sleep" is considered Ceylan's masterpiece which he wrote, directed and edited.  His wife Ebru also worked on the script as she had in other of his films.

Haluk Bilginer plays Aydin as a cynical motel owner.  He loves discussion.  Haluk is remembered by many for his 107 episodes of the British tv. series "Eastenders".  Other films include "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (2012), "Rosewater" (2014), "The Ottoman Lieutenant" (2017).  Nuri Bilge Ceylan insisted on his role despite three rejections and worked the film schedule around Haluk's theatre schedule at the time.  In his

Melisa Sozen played Nihal, the young wife striving to be independent.  An Award winner.  Has done French films

Demet Akbag played the cynical sister. Necla.  She had been in Turkish films since 1986 winning national awards.  She got to deliver an interesting quote:  "Philanthropy isn't tossing a bone to a hungry dog.  It's sharing when you are just as hungry."

My first Turkish film was "Bliss" (2007) and encouraged me to watch more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/05/turkish-delight-in-book-and-movie-form.html

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Dream House

 As a clever blogger I avoid using the first person pronoun as it turns off readers.   For this blog which stirs strong emotional feelings I feel I must state my personal stake in the game.  I am 73 and have owned my current home for almost 40 years and before that owned two other houses for shorter periods of time.  My income and that of my wife never was high enough to get out of the first tax bracket.  We were given breaks by relatives, but were not able to live in the more expensive locations in any town.  My current house is two stories with a finished basement, a small pond in the back yard and lots of flowers.  I can easily walk downtown or to Bayfront Park.

Times have changed.  The value of my house has gone up well over ten fold, but the people bidding up the prices are coming from further away and in most cases commuting a distance to afford.  If I were to give in to the real estate agents that pester me, I would have to find another house and it is not likely to be better located or offer as much space.

That is my situation and I fear the future will be a bigger challenge for those coming behind me.  In Hamilton (as elsewhere) we are having a big debate about the future.  Recently there was a big campaign to protest possible plans to expand housing including to farm land.  Not surprisingly many residents are horrified.  Building developers and some politicians are fighting back and have a case.  I noticed that the signs protesting urban sprawl were at single dwelling houses.  One of the politicians backed by a developer pointed out that the survey was very biased and offered their own supposedly less biased poll.  See below for a different political view.

The problem boils down to we who have an established house (relatively speaking"dream houses") don't want to rock the boat.  We don't want big huge buildings with multitudes in our neighborhood and we don't like the idea of farm land being turned over to greedy developers.  I fit into that category.  BUT everyone agrees that more people are coming. 

Where are these people supposed to go?  I don't envy their choices.  Cramped in an apartment or condo might be one choice.  Another would be way out in the suburbs requiring longer commuting.  Another choice to somehow get more money (an unhealthy pressure in itself) or accept that a higher percentage of their income is going to be devoted to housing. 

The basis of the frustration is the pursuit of the "dream house".  More "dream houses" can be built, but yes they will be more expensive, further away, maybe not quite as ideal and yes they will cut into our precious farm land and add pollution and accelerate climate change.

Other political view picked up from John-Paul Danko to Steve Paikin.  My phrasing:  The government empowered by greedy developers has extended the time frame, hyped up population projections and taken on a larger planning function.  I agree there needs to be a wider view of the problem, but hopefully not financed solely by "special interests".

Are there solutions to the dilemma?  There are ideas, but they are dependent on people who can help work out the big plan and the little details that impinge on them.  There will have to be adjustments or not only will people be unhappy, but they may not have much of a planet left.

Cars are part of the problem, especially as more people may be commuting further and on more crowded roads.  Extended infrastructure will also add another element of pollution and attack our climate.  Transit is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.  If people insist on living in detached houses far from city centers can we somehow put them into the transit network?  Better yet, in the future will more of us will be able to do most of our work from home?  Working from home has mixed blessing in that human contact is still vital for many interactions.  We may be aggravating inequality as some will have the luxury of working from home while others can't.

At bottom the real pressure comes from population.  Some have a vested interest in ever growing population which really are markets for whatever they are trying to sell.  Part of a dream for many families is deferred because they don't have the resources to bring up another human.  We would like to support families as they are the base of society as we know it.  Large families may be difficult to maintain, and for the world as a whole and individual families some disincentives should be established.   Part of the strategy to curb excessive population growth would include sex education, availability of contraceptives, but more basic is our attitudes.

Compromise is how we have traditionally dealt with conflicts.  I learned that the city of Hamilton has limited downtown buildings to a height that does not obstruct the view of the escarpment.  I would keep that sort of restriction but perhaps we need to examine other building restrictions.  Along with that would be improved transit which always seems to run against budget concerns.  Farmland could well be our saviour, but we need to expand our food growing resources which have been done in some urban centers. Many compromises would be easier if more money was included.  That of course relates right back to inequality.  An earlier blog on taxation has some relevance:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/05/taxation-necessary-tool-for.html

Happiness is being satisfied with what you have while unhappiness is not being satisfied with what you have.  Having said that, human progress has come from those overcoming dissatisfaction.  What can we do to make life more satisfying.  Make living spaces more livable with more community space and also concern for privacy.  We take for granted that more people can mean more cultural opportunities, etc.  Each of us need to examine what is really important including independence, relationships and purpose.  What joy can we find?   It might too much to put this burden on education, but that has to be an important component.  School needs to be more than learning job skills.

It is good that the issues are being raised, but each of us needs to be open minded.  We have to acknowledge other people have their needs.  We should admit that we have achieved at least part of our dream and that others have not been quite as lucky. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Hunter Biden story

 Like most of you I had never heard of Hunter Biden until Donald Trump decided to target Hunter's father, Joe Biden before his office announcement. A heavy and prolonged criticism got global attention.  It certainly seemed incriminating for his father and Barrack Obama.  On the other hand anyone criticized by Donald Trump could not be all bad, in fact most of them are commendable.  At one point Trump mocked Hunter so severely and his campaign offered a T shirt "Where's Hunter" for $25.00.  Trump kept up attacks on Hunter and never apologized.

What does Hunter have to say about this unwanted attention?  Hunter is quite open about it.  The Ukrainians wanted a name with international clout and offered him a lot of money to insure that.  Underlying their effort was fear of the Russians who had seen one of their picks for President, Viktor Yankovych forced to a Russian exile.  Trump's later campaign manager, Paul Manafort was heavily mixed up for Russian interests in Ukraine.  The Ukrainians were well aware of corruption that enabled the Russian intimidation and wanted to clean it up.  Hunter was not just a name.  Among other things he advocated for a geo thermal project in Italy and  helped make a connection for Burisma with Pemex,  the Mexican energy company.  Earlier taking advantage of his name Hunter was able to help persuade King Abdullah to accept more Syrians despite an awkward political dilemma for Jordan.

Trump was certainly in league with Putin.  It is possible he just admired how Putin used power, but the links are many over the years.  Check out:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/house-of-trump-house-of-putin.html   At about this time Putin was planning a sneak attack on Crimea and attempted to take more territory from Ukraine.  From my viewpoint it is hard to understand how Trump escaped with his job.  His actions were treasonous and he was trying to distract by attacking a likely rival's son.  It also fit well with Putin's strategy who wanted to take Ukraine back.  Joe Biden helped expedite the firing of a corrupt official.  Trump threatened to with hold military supplies to Ukraine that was being besieged by Russia.

The first part of the story seemed very saccharine where Hunter was trying to establish that he loved his older brother Beau.  He did lean on him a lot, even to helping with his alcoholism.  After Beau's death Hunter, already having gone through addiction drifted back to a relapse.

Most of the book is taken up with Hunter's addiction.  It covers periods of madness and efforts to rehabilitate.  For much of the time he was able to be functional and actually make a large amount of money that allowed him to maintain his dangerous habits with alcohol and cocaine.  At one point told us that writing about his addiction actually stimulated cravings.  He finished the book acknowledged that he will be under threat all his life.

At one time he had an relationship with Hallie, the widow of Beau and his sister-in-law but that was difficult.  The two shared a love of Beau, but in the end it only led to Hunter's divorce, scandal and awkwardness.

At one point after the Trump attacks, Hunter was approached by Adam Beck, a journalist with the New Yorker magazine who wanted to get the other side of the story.  They hit it off and Hunter found it a cathartic experience.  Some casual acquaintances gave him the number of someone they thought he should meet, but after leaving a message he threw away the phone number.  In the end he was saved by the love of a good woman.  Melissa Cohen was understanding, but tough.  She seemed attracted by Hunter's underlying humanness.  

Now Hunter has gone back to a love of painting.   Many critics point out that his paintings are over priced and likely bought by people who want to make an impression on President Joe Biden.  Hunter acknowledges he owes a lot to his father who not only brought him up, giving him lots of breaks and supporting him through some pretty rough times.  Hunter is well educated and above average in intelligence, but had trouble accepting various disappointments.  

If anything this story only enhances the respect some people give to President Joe Biden.  He is a man of love and understanding, a dramatic swing from his predecessor.