Saturday, February 4, 2023

Band of Brothers

Although focused on a specific Paratrooper group (Easy Company, 506th Regiment of 101st Airbourne Division, , U.S. Army) this strikes me as one of the more comprehensive World War II films.  In many war films there are paratroopers shown as the advance attack force,but they aren't followed nearly as closely as in "Band of Brothers" (2001).

 To maintain authenticity the actual veterans covered recalled  the actual events and their feelings at the start of most of the 10 episodes (at the concluding episode the veterans are interviewed at the end).  Without their approval scenes could not be filmed and in some cases deleted.  The coverage starts with training camp in the U.S.  Here we encounter a tough trainer who eventually loses the respect of the trainees.  We appreciate that the paratroopers are elite forces who not only go behind enemy lines, but are able to disrupt defensive positions.  Stealth is required to attack enemy soldiers on their home turf.

When they are set to land behind and ahead of D-Day they encounter anti aircraft guns and fighter jets.  They have to deal with casualties, but they are able move the invasion forward.  Taken back to England they prepare for a variety of jumps as they invade different European countries.   The initial jumpers need to get used to replacements.  The brotherhood forms as they suffer the same dangers and the same confidence  building triumphs.  

In the Netherlands they are greeted as liberators, being kissed by the women.  On the other hand they see women with shaved heads who are being castigated for sleeping with Germans.   Everywhere they go they are treated as liberators by the natives.

One episodes devotes coverage to the medics.  In their jumps and battles the paratroopers suffer a wide variety of injuries.  Treating them incurs a lot of risk, but in their vulnerability they save lives and prolong the fight.

Aside from attacking the enemy the paratroopers are also responsible for capturing prisoners and making sure they are handed over to the proper authorities.  Towards the end of European war  when they crossed the German borders there were literally hundreds of soldiers surrendering.

All too many of the Americans came across concentration camps which at the beginning they could not quite fathom the hatred that went into them.  For many who had started seeing Germans as humans were aghast.  The soldiers could not believe that the nearby German civilians were unaware of what happened  in the camps.  We saw emaciated people with tatoo numbers plus even more dead bodies.  The survivors were starving, but after medical advice had to limit food so as not to damage further their bodies.  German civilians were forced to help clean up the mess including dead and suffering bodies.

Throughout most episodes are found a lot of violence.  Lots of explosions and gun shots.  Particularly gruesome were scenes of huge tanks crushing soldiers and bayoneting.  To survive too many of us become callous (to some extent that includes viewers).

Human nature reveals itself not only in the brotherhood felt by those who suffered and triumphed together, but also by many petty activities.  Resentment of poor leadership, discomfort with those replacing lost partners and a resentment towards fellow Americans who didn't understand the combatant's sacrifices.  Many could not resist taking guns, flags and other items as contraband. 

Reading comments revealed what was not shown.  As near as I can recall there were the soldiers  not included blacks, Asians, or Hispanics.  It was a white man's war and they were the heroes only there was more to it.

Truly a blockbuster effort resulting in Prime Time Emmy awards.  Not possible in a blog to do justice to all the contributor and the following are merely a sampling of the creativity brought to this project.

Tom Hanks, director of 1 episode, executive producer and writer of 1 episode.  Tom Hanks spends more time producing than acting.  He manages to combine both disciplines with this film.  He did not get involved in acting until after floundering in efforts in college when a community theater.  His first film was "Splash" (1988) under Ron Howard and was a box office success.  Another film that propelled him forward was "A League of Their Own" (1992) followed shortly with "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993) and "Philadelphia" (1993) for which he won an Oscar.  "Forest Gump" (1994) won him another Oscar and was a global box office hit.  In 1996 he got into directing with "That Thing That You do" (1996).  In 2002 he became the youngest actor to win the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.  His film credits include:   "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), "Castaway" (2000), "Saving Mr. Banks" (20130, "Bridge of Spies" (2015),"Sully" (2016), "The Post" (2017) and "A Man Called Ottot: (2023).   check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2023/01/swedish-classic-remade-as-man-named.html

Graham Yost, writer of 2 episodes has been both a producer and writer.  His father Elway Yost used to host Saturday Night at the Movies which was one of the influences for better undersanding movies.  His movie credits include "Speed" (1994), "John Adams" (2008) and one my all time favorite Canadian movies, "The Grizzlies" (2018).  Check  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/01/an-unexpected-canadian-film-gem.html

Stephen E. Ambrose wrote the original book.  He is considered the top military historian, specializing in World War II.  Has also written biographies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.He was the founder of the Eisenhower Center and president of the National D-Day Museum.  He has been quoted saying "The number one secret of being a successful writer is this:  marry an English major."

Mary Richards was the producer.   She started as a production assistant in 1975.  From there she got more involved with production managing and producing.  Her film credits include "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994) "Notting Hill (1999) and "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008.) 

Steven Spielberg was also an executive producer.  He has been a producer, writer, and director.winning 3 Oscars. His film credits include "E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982), "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988) "Schindler's List" (1993), "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), "Lincoln" (2012) and "West Side Story" (2021).     

Damian Lewis played Richard D. Winters in all 10 episodes.  He was born in England  Appeared in 37 episodes of "Homeland" (2011-2014).  He had a flawless American accent that fooled some of his cast mates.  After getting theatrical training he acted with the Royal Shakespeare Theatrre.  He was spotted by Steven Spielberg on a stage play and brought him over to films. 

Ben Caplan appeared in 5 episodes.  He got his training at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.  He performed on stage and later some directing.  He appeared in episodes of "Inspector Morse" (1997) and "A Touch of Frost" (1999).  He appeared in "Leap Year" (2010) and for 32 episodes of "Call the Midwife" (2012-2017).

 Tom Hardy made his television debut with 2 episodes of "Band of Brothers."  In one film  "Locke" (2013) he was the only actor who appeared on screen,  Other film credits include "Inception" (2010), "Child 44" (2015), "Dunkirk" (2017) and "Taboo" (2017).

In truth this was a very impressive team effort.  They won 6 Prime Emmy plus another 8 nominations.  Well worth the effort.

Monday, January 30, 2023

All Quiet on the Western Front--the German remake

War movies have usually been avoided.  Many of them glorify war or appeal to machoism.  One that I felt made  a point was "Saving Private Ryan"().  The point that hit me was how very random death could be- merely putting up your head could be the end of your war.  It is mostly the young who die and it is mostly the older who decides whether or not to go to war and how to go about it.  

Germany had in my youth the reputation of a warring nation bent on conquering lesser nations.  A bit unfair and they now deal with guilt while other western powers expect them to carry their weight in defending western values.  Losers in two global wars they have learned how pointless wars can be.  The victorious western nations by now should have learned to be fair to the losers.

"All Quiet on the Western Front" (2022) depicts the excitement when one group of four young men are stirred thinking of the glory and the ease of battle to feelings of despair while older men plot how they can subdue another group of older men.

The four men anticipating a quick trip to Paris were quickly disillusioned.  The viewer is shown military leaders and negotiators .  After awhile we become conscious that the Germans are not doing too well, but the the military leaders are proud men who refused to accept defeat while planning to recruit another group of naive young men coming of age.  The terms being offered were very harsh and even insulting.  Finally a defeat was obvious and leaders accepted the humiliation.  It was to go in effect on November 11th.  In the meantime some German commanders want to carry on the battle while the soldiers

Some scenes I remember.  Two of the soldiers steal a goose for a meal.  The last time did't work out so good.   Another playing with a beetle kept in matchbox. Tanks and flame throwers were new weapons heralding future horrors

This is a true block buster and required some very talented people to put it together.

Starting with a few contributors not nominated for an Oscar, but definitely noteworthy.

 Erich Maria Marque wrote the original novel in 1929 that was an early anti-war book that shocked many.  Adolf Hitler had it banned.  Part of his story depicted  soldiers having adjustment problems when returning home.

Daniel Bruhl, an executive producer, but also took an important role in the film.  He is the son of a German tv. director father and a Spanish teacher mother.  He is said to be fluent in German, Spanish, English, Portuguese, French and Catalan with at least three of them on display in films.  He was early on a singer in a band.  His acting film credits include  "Inglourious Basterds" (2009), "The Fifth Estate" (2013), "Rush" (2013), "Burnt" (2015), "Woman in Gold" (2015) and "The Zookeeper's Wife" (2017).  He has also been involved with three other film productions and one as a director, Splits his residence between Barcelona and Berlin where he has opened a restaurant offering Spanish items.

Sven Budelmann, the editor who started editing music videos and commercials.  He has gone on to earn 51 film credits.

Felix Kammerer played the lead character, Paul Baumer in his first lead role.  Previously had acted on stage and had one supporting film role.

Albrecht Schuch played Stanislaus Katczinsky.  He has won numerous acting awards and his film credits include "Berlin Alexanderplatz" (2020).

Devid Striesow played General Friedrichs.  An early film credit was for "The Counterfeiters" (2008), the first Austrian film to win the Oscar foreign film category.   Another film credit comes from heavily awarded film "Downfall" (2004).

Sebastian Hulk played Major Von Brixdorf.  His film credits include "Inglourious Basterds" (2009), "The White Ribbon" (2009), "War Horse" (2011), "Hansel and Gretel:  Witch Hunters" (2013), "The Red Sparrow" (2013), "The Book Thief" (2013) and "Homeland" (5 episodes 2015).

The names below are all nominated for awards for this years' Oscar celebration.  A lot of the people behind the scenes don't get much recognition for our enjoyment.  Hopefully you will see some of them either on stage or in the audience.

Makeup and hairstyling nomination   Heike Merkeer, Also with film credits including "Cloud Atlas" (2012), "A Hologram for the King" (2018), "55 Steps" (2017), "The Girl in the Spider's Web" (2018) and "Crazy Rich Asians" (2018).  Linda Eisenhamerova with film credits that include "Snowpiercer" (2013).

Volker Bartelmann was nominated for best original music score.  His film credits include "Hotel Mumbai" (2019), "Summerland" (2020), "Lion" (2020) and "Against the Ice" (2022).  He has recently started recording his piano music.

Best Sound  nominations were for:  Frank Kruse with film credits including "Cloud Atlas" (2012), "Rush" 2013), "A Hologram for the King" (2016) and Markus Stemler with credits for "Cloud Atlas" (2012),"Rush" (2013) and  Lars Ginzel  with credits  "Cloud Atlas: (2012) "The Cave" 2019) "The Disciple" (2020) and Stefan Korte with credit for"Rush" (2013) and Viktor Prasil with 38 film credits

Visual Effects  nominations for Viktor Muller with film credits include   "The Talented Mr.Ripley" (1999), "Inglorious Basterds" (2009), "Snowpiercer" (2013)"The Walk" (2015) and "The Zookeeper's Wife" (2017).  and Markus Frank:  "The Book Thief" (2013),"A Hologram for the King" (2016)and Kamil Jaffar  with credits "Snowpiercer" (2013), "Child 44" (2015)and Frank Petzold with 19 film credits.

Edward Berger is nominated for best screen adaptation, but was also the director and a producer.  He has 22 director credits, 14 writing credits.  He produced 10 episodes and directed 3 episodes of "Your Honor" (2020)  and Lesley Paterson with only her second scrip  with.Ian Stokell had been a managing editor for a Washington Post online business and technology newsi

Cinematography nominee James Friend  "Your Honor" (2020) studied cinematography at the London Film School, a certified electrician

Best Production Design  Christian M. Goldbeck  with credit for "The Reader" (2018).    Ernestine Hipper did production design for "Tar" (2022), another Oscar nominated film.

To top it all the film is nominated for the Best Picture which is awarded to the producer, Malte Grunert.  This is his second Oscar nomination for best foreign film, the previous  film, "Land of Mine" (2015).

If you haven't  already realized that war is a foolish waste of time this film will steer you in that direction.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Do Elections Guarantee Mandates?

Many politicians have claimed to have a mandate to execute various policies.  What does a "mandate" mean?  My opinion is that a true mandate means they have been enabled by the will of the people to execute particular acts. 

Elections do determine the candidate winners who get to take decisions on your behalf.  If you actually voted for the winner you can be happy your vote helped.  If you didn't you could have stayed home.  At least that is what our current First Past The Post system offers.


In practice many politicians are claiming mandates with less than 50% of actual voters (and even lower among all eligible voters).  In practice many do not vote, not only because of apathy, but with the feeling that their vote would not make a difference.  It would not give anyone power or would not be needed.

 It is true that one powerful person can get more done that any collective, but question whether it is in the best interest of everyone.  No one person really understands the concerns of everyone and many of them seem and are very unreasonable.

Strategic voting in effect means not voting for a candidate or policies, but against.  In effect the voter chooses their second or third preference.  In a small way that is also a distortion of the will of the people. 

 Candidates usually lay out their priorities during the election campaign.  If nobody gets a mandate, what next?  Compromise and persuasion.  The will of the people:   One could also say that non voters have failed to give their blessing or not?    In reality there are more than one option for most issues, but if one possibility cannot gain a plurality it is easily ignored by those set on a different path.

Voters seem to accept a candidate with less than 50% making laws that are not desired by over 50% of the voters and nobody is sure about the non voters.  At some point this could cause a rebellion.

The idea behind Proportional Representation is that every vote counts for something.   If no candidate reaches 50% of the vote there is apt to be an overlap of interests and a willingness to make compromises.  In these negotiations the elected official demonstrate their respect for the voters.

There are many variations of proportional representation, but the basic idea is that every vote counts towards a a set of party policies.  The voter chooses the candidate or party that best reflects what they believe is in their best interests (including beyond their local concerns).  No need for strategic voting.

Why isn't Canada  trying to implement a proportional representation system?  One big reason is that politicians with power are satisfied with the current system that gave them their power.  Many of them did not require a majority, only a plurality.  They could concentrate their efforts with  specific voters who form enough support to win a plurality.  On a national scale large segments can be ignored or at least receive less effort.   With a proportional system a candidate can build  many groups and avoid neglecting many who might be persuaded.  When the election is decided in order to get anything done it is necessary to negotiate with others and usually considering many different viewpoints.  The necessity to negotiate encourages civilized discourse.

I would be the first to agree that the majority is not always right.  The goal of anyone who wants to advocate an unpopular idea is to build up support.  Examples include seat belts, smoking, climate change, anti racial and homosexual restrictions, etc..  In some cases we have reached majority support amongst voters, but the First Past the Post system still slows down the will of the people.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Black Dog

Some baggage I carry into this post about "Black Dog Being a Teacher" (2019).  Several years ago I read about the intensity of Korean education.  One fact got my attention:  books were published for parents to help their children with specific subjects.  Here in North America it would be pretty rare for parents to spend more than token support for homework except to insist they do it.  In the 1950's Koreans were poor, but recognized that education was critical to improve their standard of living.  Parents made sacrifices so their children could go to the better schools.  They are a good model for the importance of education.

The title "Black Dog" comes from a child hood memory when looking for a dog with her grandfather the young protagonist let him pick out a cute white puppy and she felt a little uneasy about a black puppy that wagged its tail, but seemed to be overlooked.  In Korea it is common for the lighter colored dogs to be picked ahead of black ones.

 This series has basically no romance so the focus is on the education environment.   Plot revolves around parents, students and teachers.  Different views on education are depicted.

The story starts with a tragic accident occurring during a school trip.  There is a collision in a tunnel and most of the students and teachers escape while one young girl is stuck.  Another teacher realizes someone is missing and goes back to get her out and although successful dies in the aftermath.  It turns out the teacher was only a temporary one and his family is not compensated like a permanent teacher would have.  The young girl, Go Ha-neul  is so grateful that she decides she wants to be a teacher and help others.  She begins as a temporary teacher at a private high school, meaning  precarious job security.

Purpose of this particular school, Daechi High School is to help students get to higher education.   The competition is intense, not just for the students, but also for the high schools and also the teachers.  Go Ha-neul is given support by an experienced teacher, Park Seong-soon.

We see the teachers not just teaching, but also involved in administration decisions.  Not only are the students evaluated, but also the teachers.  Records are very important in evaluations.  Students are measured not just on marks, but also subjectively on extra curricular activities.  Teachers are evaluated at least partially on their students.  It was remarked that it is a lot easier and more fun to teach intelligent motivated students.

Parents are focused on admission tests for university and that in turn forces teachers to focus on what is expected.  Administration is focused on getting more students to the more prestigious colleges.

Go Ha-neul becomes very concerned about her students, in particular one girl who is hard working, but from a poorer family.  One of her rivals is a boy from a better off family and they seem to be squabbling much of the time.  Go Ha-neul feels she could develop a class for the more gifted chances to enhance their chances of  achieving their university goals.  She offers to do some of the extra work involved and convinces a few others to get involved.  Her efforts succeed and she is acknowledged as critical to the success.

However there is resentment.  Some students feel they have been overlooked and a small number do some vandalizing.  When finally confronted they try to justify themselves.  Go Ha-neul realizes there is truth to their resentment and makes a decision not to run the gifted program.

One student symbolizes another view of education.  Hwang Bo Tang had not been noticed, but Go learned he had an unfortunate misunderstanding with Park Seong-soon a year or so ago.  Eventually that was cleared up, but Hwang enjoyed drawing and photography more than any school subjects.  He saw himself going to school to learn web-tooning.  Go finally accepted his decision and vowed to keep in touch.

Every activity seems tied to politics.  Education is no different.  Bureaucracy lends itself to politics.  School scheduling for classes and meetings, and downtime are affeced by staffing.  I remember one semester not having any classes on a Friday (only partly by my design).  We tend to think of education stories as classroom battles, but there are many struggles for power behind the scene that affect the main purpose.

There is a lot of debate over small points, much of which deteriorates to quibbling as part of a power struggle.  One example:  on a test question affecting university admission some classes were taught about "lexical ambiguity" and interpreted one question referring to a banana as person rather than a fruit in a arithmatical question--after one discussion it has been decided the answers should only be interpreted how the subject matter had been taught, overlooking the one teacher who had to be reminded that interpretation can be critical.   Some students interpreted that some kids got special treatment.

'In their last episode, the staff of Daechi High School explore going beyond the CSAT exam preparation which some are still worried about other relevant information..

Parents want to protect the interests of their children.  Parents also have their own opinions that they want respected.  High authorities have concerns.  A current controversy is about critical race theory which supposedly is only taught at American legal colleges, but is being used as political weapon.  To an outside observer the real issue is should we be teaching true history as it affects everyone or not. 

Honoring some of those who contributed to the result of "Black Dog Being a Teacher" and n the expectation that some will likely appear in the future here are some worthy contributors:

First time director:  Joon-Hyeok Hwan and Joo-Yeon Park with his first script.

Hyeon-jin Seo plays the lead character Go Ha-neul, a beginning teacher.   She had established herself in earlier roles.  In 2019 she with a fellow actor were made ambassadors of the National Tax Service for Korea;

Ra Mi Ran played Park Seong-soon.  One of her film credits was for "Hope" (2018)    http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/11/hope-gut-wrenching-film-from-korea.html

 Jung Taek-Hyun played Hwang Bo Tang the student who dropped out.  His film credits include "Forgotten" (2017) and "Flower of Evil" (2020).   Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/10/flower-of-evil.html 

 Education is a tough slog and some people who aren't especially interested in education may find this slow.  If you are interested in some of the issues that all education systems wrestle with this is worth your time.  It has its share of character and plot. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Navalny--a hero for our times

 Before history buries the exploits of one man I want to give a bit of my memory.  A CNN special seen for a second time prompted this blog. Plus some unsettling news that in prison Alexei Navalny was ill and not receiving adequate medical attention.

Putin is upset that the Russian Empire has been dismantled.  He wants to control more people  His action against dissidents is despicable.  The admiration of other authoritarian leaders including Donald Trump reflects poorly on them.

Contrast the British Empire and to a lesser extent Francophonie.  Certainly they exploited huge sections of the world they were able to conquer.  Both European powers had developed  democratic structures.  Both Empires were dismantled for economic factors, but have maintained significant cultural and economic ties.   

The evidence against the Putin regime is circumstantial, but pretty overwhelming.  Novichok has been identified as the poisoning agent used twice against Navalny as well against two former Russians in Salisbury and who knows how many others.  It supposedly cannot be traced after a few hours in the blood of its victims. It is only manufactured at one location in Moscow under the supervision of specialist scientists.  Additional evidence comes from travel records of the scientists who seem to coincide with travel plans of Navalny.

In the film after gathering information that points to specific people Navalny himself using the name of a higher authority contacts the agents identified  on the pretense of analyzing what went wrong in their efforts to kill him.  He is able to get a description of their procedures including destroying his clothing that contained traces of Novichok.  There is also despair that by bad luck he got away.   

Why all the fuss over one man?   He had the effrontery to accuse Putin of being crook in the Russian public.  Furthermore drawing support from Russians.  He also had the gall to return to Russia after his first poisoning.   He is now in prison and apparently not receiving adequate medical attention.

Navalny is also part Ukrainian and used to visit a grandmother in Ukraine that enabled to also speak Ukrainian.  He seems very articulate in English as well.  Naturally he has expressed an opinion opposed to the unjustified Ukrainian invasion.

His sense of humor (sometimes admittedly black sometimes).  One can hope that Russian people will rise up and heed Navalny's guidance.  Nelson Mandela overcame efforts to bring freedom to all South Africans.

His wife  Yulia Navalnaya and daughter Daria or (Dasha) Navalnaya are both articulate and supportive.



Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Swedish Classic remade as "A Man Named Named Otto

 Tom Hanks is a well respected film maker and was smart enough to remake an enjoyable Swedish film, "A Man Called Ove" (2015).  Remakes are tested and generally able to find an audience.   The Americans do a great job, even updating a few elements and adapting to the American market.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/07/a-man-called-ove.html  Film makers are anxious to get us back into theatres where they can display their talent and technology.  They still raise the needle of our enjoyment.

The basic story is about a grumpy old man who is distraught over his wife's death.  He calls most of his acquaintances "idiots".  His new neighbors including an immigrant woman and her native husband are annoying and they get off on the wrong foot.  But the immigrant is persistent and gives him some of her native food as a gift.  He ignore the gift for awhile, but gives into his hunger is finds it very tasty

One character we might expect Otto to belittle would be transgender.  The transgender male, Malcolm had delivered a paper to Otto, but first he explained that Ottos' wife Sonya had been his teacher and had been kind to him.  Otto showed no hesitation in accepting Malcolm and included him in future interactions.

Both films used attitudes towards cars to differentiate people.  The conservative self righteous Ove or Otto made judgments.   In Sweden, Ove was a supporter of Saab while his friend was always buying a Volvo.  In America the choice was Chevrolet vs Ford, but the worst folly in Otto's eyes was imported cars such as Toyota and Volkswagen.  My father  who drove for a living and had won Car rallies told me that the best car he ever drove was a Saab.

Both films depict immigrants as life enhancers for the rest of us.  In the Swedish version they were able to enlist a trained actress from Iran.  The Americans who seem to be concerned about too many Mexicans crossing the border are confronted with a Mexican who adds spice to life.

 A great cast and crew put together a worthy remake.

Tom Hanks spends more time producing than acting.  He manages to combine both disciplines with this film.  He did not get involved in acting until after floundering in efforts in college when a community theatre.  His first film was "Splash" (1988) under Ron Howard and was a box office success.  Another film that propelled him forward was "A League of Their Own" (1992) followed shortly with "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993) and "Philadelphia" (1993) for which he won an Oscar.  "Forest Gump" (1994) won him another Oscar and was a global box office hit.  In 1996 he got into directing with "That Thing That You do" (1996).  In 2002 he became the youngest actor to win the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.  His film credits include:   "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), "Castaway" (2000), "Saving Mr. Banks" (20130, "Bridge of Spies" (2015),"Sully" (2016), "and "The Post" (2017).   Check a post of an earlier Tom Hanks movie:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/05/bridge-of-spies.html           

Rita Wilson, also shared producing duties and in addition helped write and sing one of the songs.  She started acting with an episode of "The Brady Bunch"  (1972).  She acted in various tv shows, and after two appearances in films with Tom Hanks, started dating and married in 1988 with a Greek wedding.  She produced "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (2002) having helped the lead actress and script writer Nia Vardalos the contract becoming a huge money maker.  She starting recording songs in 2012 including songs she wrote.  Her film credits include:  "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993), "Larry Crowne" (2011) and six episodes of "The Good Wife" (2011-2014).

Marc Forster, the director and executive producer had been born in Germany, but raised in Switzerland,   He attended the New York University to study film.  He directed Halle Berry to an Oscar in "Monster's Ball" (2001).   His film credits include "Stranger than Fiction" (2006) and "The Kite Runner" (2007).

David Magee wrote the script.  Film credits include "Life of Pi" (2012).

Fredrik Backman, a favorite writer from Sweden wrote the original book "A Man Called Ove"  He was a film producer for another of his books "Anxious People" (2021).  A post for his latest book with links to his other books:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/11/the-winners.html:   

Mariana Trevino played Marisol, the Mexican immigrant that coaxed Otto into a more relaxed lifestyle.  She has been in over 30 films, mostly in Spanish and from Mexico. 

Rachel Keller played Sonya in flashbacks that lightened  up Otto.  Rachel's acted in "Fargo" (2015) the tv. series.        

Much as I admire Tom Hanks I feel that Rolf Lassgard is the more credible not only as a grumpy old man  but as a jovial bumpkin.  In my favorite film, "After the Wedding" (2006) he was also very credible as fast talking business man.  A Swedish native, Rolf has performed in Danish and Norwegian.  Rolf also played Wallander in the tv. series that has been adapted in other nations.

Bahar Pars plays the persistent neighbor who opens up Ove.  She was born in Iran and her family moved to Sweden after the Iran Iraq War.  She trained to be an actress who who has performed on stage, television and films.

Ida Engvoll played Sonja, the wife seen only in flashbacks.  Ida's film credits include "The Bridge" (2015) and as the lead character for "Rebecka Martinsson" .

Remakes of movies are a recognition of something worth viewing.  If you enjoyed either one you will not be disappointed if you get a chance to watch the other.  Tom Hanks is a strong indicator of something worth watching.  The Swedes have a long film tradition that has enriched the world and their film is a good example.

Friday, January 13, 2023

The Undoing

Television series have an advantage over movies as they have time to develop plots and characters.  On streaming services they have found that series are in great demand.  There are enough series available that bingeing is common with a dynamic different from when I grew up.  New ones are also coming on board that force you to wait at least a few days.

"The Undoing" (2020) got my attention with the cast and crew.  Kept building tension and character development.  The story revolves around the  Fraser  family.  Grace is a a psycho therapist married to Jonathan Fraser, an oncologist and their sonHenry. 

 Like most mysteries information is released in chunks.  A common theme is that everyone is suspicious of others' motives.   The dialogue from cynical police, clever lawyers, privileged people and even a young boy are interesting.  My favorite line comes from a lawyer paraphrased as  "I make muck to make the state burden too difficult to prosecute."  An interesting excuse for not answering a call was what Grace said when she doesn't recognize a number she assumes they are a telemarketer and won't answer.  

We are introduced to Grace Fraser working as a psycho therapist.  Later she visits a fund raiser with her husband Jonathan for the private school her son attends.  Along the way we meet some of her close friends, one of whom is a lawyer.   More critical to the plot is we meet the soon to be murder victim.  The next day we learn about the brutal murder and that Grace cannot trace her husband who had said he was attending a medical convention out of town.

Soon we learn from detectives that her husband is a person of interest and soon are told he is a suspect.  Indeed that case escalates rapidly.  He appears at his father-in-law's cottage claiming to be innocent of the murder, but confessing to an affair with the victim.  Her legal friend advises her and over time we are introduced to two other lawyers for the defense.  She has conflicting feelings and her son becomes a concern.  Her very wealthy father who dislikes her husband gives financial and finally emotional support.

We are surprised by information about Grace, her husband, father, victim and son that keep us riveted.  You don't want to know the guilty party as that would spoil the process.  It is very well done. 

This series has an impressive pedigree that almost guarantees the success it achieved.

Susanne Bier  is a key reason for this blog as I have admired many of her films.   She graduated from the Danish School of Film and has also been educated in Israel and England.  She has won an Oscar, an Emmy and numerous global awards with films on both sides of the Atlantic.  Her films have been record setters commercially.   Her film credits include "After the Wedding" (2006), "Things we Lost in the Fire" (2007) "In a Better World" (2010), "Love is All You Need" (2012), "Serena" (2014) and "The   First Lady" (2022)    A quote noted from IMDB "I think it really is about addressing the conflict between the characters and addressing the storytelling and psychology.  That way, the feelings are the undercurrent of the whole story, which is exciting".

David E. Kelley wrote the script and was also a producer and executive producer.  He accounts for many of legal details in the script.  He had been a lawyer in Boston which formed the basis for a tv. script, "From the Hip" (1987).  From there he had been invited to be involved with "L.A. Law" and became an editor and producer as well as writer for some scripts.  Married actress Michelle Pfeiffer, accepting her adopted daughter on the wedding date.  Has won 11 Primetime Emmys.  His film credits include "Chicago Hope" (1994-2000), "Ally McBeal" (1997-2002), "Big Little Lies" (2017-2019), "Nine Perfect Strangers" (2021) and "Anatomy of a Scandal" (2022).

The original novel, "You Should have Known" was by Jean Hanff Korelitz.  A previous novel made it to the screen, "Admission" (2013)  and another is in the works, "The Plot" which will be a mini series with  Mahershala Alli.

Music was provided by French brothers Evgueni and Sacha Galperine.  They have Russian and Ukrainian roots and have in fact won awards in Russian and French films.  Their film credits include:  "The Big Picture' (2010), "The Family" (2013), "Loveless" (2017), "Paterno" (2018) and"By the Grace of God" (2019)

Anthony Dod Mantle was the cinematogher.  In some ways New York City was another character and was brilliantly photographed.  He won an Oscar for "Slum Dog Millionaire" (2008)).   His film credits include "Millions" (2004),"The Last King of Scotland" 2006), "Wallander" (2008) "Trance" (2013), " "Snowden" (2016), "The Putin Interviews" (2017), "First They Killed my Father" (2016) "The Command" (2018).

 Ben Lester, the editor with film credits that include "Shetland" (2013), "The Widower" (2013), "Broadchurch" (2016) and "Nine Perfect Strangers" (2021)

Nicole Kidman, executive producer and lead actress had been raised in Australia.  At age 16 she got her first movie role in 1983.  By 1987 she had won an Australian Film Institute award and two years later made her first American film, "Dead Calm".  Won Oscar for "The Hours" (2002).  Stage performer in London for "The Blue Room".    Tall at 5'11" avoided wearing heels when married to Tom Cruise, but now usually wears high heels on stage  played piano in "Cold Mountain" (2003) sang in "Moulin Rouge" (2001).   Other film credits include:  "The Interpreter" (2005)"Lion" (2016), "The Beguiled" (2017), "Being the Ricardos" (2021).  Quoted giving advice to Natlalie Portman "always choose a film by its director.  You're never certain how the movie will turn out, but you are always guaranteed an interesting experience".

Hugh Grant impressed me in contrast to how I have mostly seen him.  He won a scholarship to Oxford where he took part in theatre.  His first film appearance was while a student, "Privileged" (1982.  His film credits include:  "Sense and Sensibilty" (1996), Notting Hill" (1999), "About a Boy" (2003),, "Bridget Jones:  The Edge of Reason" (2005)  "Love Actually" (2004), "Music and Lyrics" (2007), "The Rewrite" (2014) and "Florence Foster Jenkins" (2016),

"Donald Sutherland" plays the rich father, Franklin Reindhardt who not only lends huge amounts of money, but also support for his daughter and grandson.  Born in Canada and attended the University of Toronto where he graduated with degrees in engineering and drama.  His break came with "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) and was able to switch to comedy with another war film "M*A*S*H" (1970).  Other film credits included:  "Klute" (1971),  "The Eagle Has Landed" (1975), "Ordinary People" (1980) "Eye of the Needle" (1981), "JFK"  (1991"Jappeloup" (2014) and "The Leisure Seeker" (2017).  An ardent fan of the Montreal Expos Sutherland would not accept any offers during one season so he could attend more games including on the road.

Noah Jupe plays Henry Fraser, the son.,one who stands up to both his parents.   Noah, born in Britain is the son of a film producer and an actress.  By age 10 he had appeared in one episode of "Downton Abbey" (2015).   From there was in his first television series.  George Clooned recommended him to John Krasinski for "A Quiet Place" (2018).  Other film credits include "Wonder" (2018) and "Ford v Ferrari" (2019).

Noma Dumezweni played the very tough lawyer  Haley Fitzgerald and got to deliver the line about "muck" referred to above.  She was born in Swaziland and came to Britain where she participated in youth theatrical groups.  Her film credits include:  "Dirty Pretty Things" (2016) and "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" (2019).

Edgar Ramirez plays a cynical police detective.  He was born in Venezuela with a lawyer mother and a soldier father that moved around a lot allowing Edgar to learn five languages.  His film credits include "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012), "The Liberator"(2013) "Joy" (2015), "The Girl on the Train" (2016), and "Gold" (2016).

I found it on a DVD borrowed from my local library.  In some cases I prefer DVD over streaming services especially when they offer special features as this one did.  It is also available on Crave.