Tuesday, December 31, 2019


One of the most important facts of life for anyone is memory.  There are all kinds of memories, not all of them are nice.  What really drives us all are the good things--we want more of them, but if that is not in the cards it is a consolation to remember the good things in our past.  A few of you will find memories we share.

An early hi-lite was Florence, my mother-in-law's 90th birthday.  She has been good to me and a whole lot of other people.  The retirement home she lives in was very accommodating for our celebration. The photo is with her great grandchildren.

In February we were invited to the most diverse wedding in my experience.  My niece, Samia with a Moroccan father (and my sister for a mother) married Anderson "Andy" with parents from El Salvador.  They had had a religious ceremony awhile back, but we witnessed a Quebec civil ceremony with an emphasis on equal rights.  Throughout the day four languages were used; English, Spanish, French and Arabic.  The bride and groom were brought in on separate sedans on the shoulders of strong men with Moroccan dress accompanied by drummers.  Moroccan tea ceremony reminded me of my late brother in law.  We were offered 5 main courses to choose. Planned by Leila, the bride's sister.  Samia's mother in law gave me a Latin dance song title.  Saw a tiny bit of old Montreal.

We held a fund raiser for the FKMS team for the MS walk.  Heather had been a founder with Grain and Grit and won a lottery to get use of their facility for a few hours.  Sharon baked cupcakes and pretzels and we held a raffle with donated prizes.  We all got a look at the A linker.  A lot of fun and we raised money.

The Mandarin MS walk was a memorable occasion.  A good size team we won the Spirit Award,  More importantly we reached our goal.  Heather rode on her A linker.  Here is Heather on her A linker supported by Helen Rigby and Laura Rolph.

The same weekend I was able to squeeze in a little of Doors Open Hamilton.  A new site this year was for the Oddfellows Lodge in Dundas.  My interest sprang from my Grandfather and Grandmother Coakwell who were prominent with the Oddfellows and Rebekka Lodges.  Once in Dundas I decided to also visit the Dundas Museum and was surprised to see a whole section on the Oddfellows.  Places I enjoyed visiting included CBC Hamilton, Cable 14 and the Worker's Art Museum.  From an earlier Doors Open http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/05/doors-open-hamilton.html

We were gifted with a theatre credit at Theatre Aquarius enough for three productions.  "Crees in the Caribbean" was a recently commissioned play with indigenous theme woven into a plot.  Turned out the lead actor had performed with an aquaintance of mine, Glenda Fordham--they had performed together in night clubs..  A second feature was "Steel City Gangster" which was a version of Rocco Perri who had some links to my wife's family.  There are many missing details of his life, but the writer used speaker from the dead  Lots of humor--his lover/partner is shot dead, but later is brought back in ghostly fashion.  The third show was a Norm Foster play,, "Renovations For Six" and  he has always come through for us with a new format for us highlighting generational differences and a big twist.

The Raptors won.  Basketball has been my favorite sport for decades.  I've waited 60 years. http://bit.ly/2IMbEL

The Hamilton Public Library had an event for Ziauddin Yousafzai.  You might wonder who he is and he admitted that he is best known as the father of Malala.   He is really a key part of her story as in his country Pakistan and in his own family history women were relegated to a supporting role.  He helped change that a bit, but really energized his daughter.  Now he travels representing a variety of peace initiatives.  Prior to his presentation I enjoyed a musical performance by a father/son team on the sitar and tabla  A big regret is that after charging up my camera battery it got left  behind.  The guy in front of me to get our books autographed was clever enough that I took a photo of him with Ziauddin.  On the day before Father's Day it was very inspiring.  Read more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/let-her-fly.html

Retirement came in the spring.  We had decided that we needed an addition with a downstairs washroom.  If you know me you realize my contribution was very small.  John Polkinghorne who has built his own home and cottage offered to provide the manpower and expertise.  He thought of details that totally escaped us, but have added to our comfort, guests and our two cats.  My main contributions was to assure a parking spot each day and run chores.  Started to go to a medical facility gym for exercise and walk down to the library about 1 kilometre away five times a week, did some volunteer work with immigrants learning English.  Mostly it seems like too many of us retired people spend too much time on social media.

The hi lite  of the year for me was when Michael visited from New Zealand.  Michael usually attends a yearly education/computer conference that rotates among a few American cities.  Sometimes depending on his work schedule he extends his time to visit more North American geography.  On this trip Michael invited us to an escape room.  We were told there was only a 22% success rate for this particular escape room, but we escaped with three minutes to spare.

 In New Zealand it is difficult to find pierogies and Michael has a long history of eating them.  Fortunately Loaded Pierogi is located within easy walking distance and a bunch of us enjoyed this Ukrainian tradition.

We invited over relatives and friends. Most of them see Michael every two years or so.  The weather was perfect and a good time was had by all.

A trip to the Zoo brought back some memories plus some new experiences. Gorillas, Orangutans, beavers, butterflies, rhinoceros and polar bears.

Ripley's Aquarium had many colorful displays and was educational.  Here Michael is touching a sting ray which the rest of us did as well.

 On one day we visited Casa Loma, the Royal Ontario Museum,  the CN Tower and Ripley's Aquarium.  On an earlier day we visited the Metro Toronto Zoo.  Really interesting, but a bit exhausting.

It is hard to explain some relationships.  When I first met my wife and before we married I made my first acquaintance with Watertown, New York.  It was based on the brother of my wife's grandmother who got married at age 40 and then had nine children.  My father in law made close friends with the brother of the new bride and my soon to be wife and I formed friendship with the son and his wife.  A lot of water under the bridge, but now we want to keep the relationship alive.  On the Labour Day weekend four of them visited us--the two Watertown groups are now related  themselves through another marriage.  We ate, drank, did a tour of the Hamilton waterfront, visited a local craft beer outlet. and had a family gathering.  Looking forward to more meetings.

I have attended the AGH Filmfest for about 5 years never missing the Trailers night.  For the second time one of their shows was one that I was already tracking.  "Photograph" turned out to be as good as expected, although as usual trailers are a bit misleading. Took in a second feature, "Arab Blues" which turned out to be comedy of a Paris raised Arab going back to Tunisia to set up a business as a    psychoanalyst.  First time visiting the Playhouse on Sherman Ave.

Went to a fund raiser in support of Friday Night Community with friends we met through our neighbor Glen Canavan.  Joan and Peter who made it possible.  Jan and Brian and Heather.  Food by an international chef (and teacher) Olaf Mertens was wonderful.  Bought a pillow with art design by Julia Veenstra.

Christmas really starts with my brother in law Len's birthday which is December 24th.  This year I took my camera.

Three great- grandchildren added a little spice.

As usual we finish off the year with a New Years Eve party with long standing friends.  I have known everyone for at least 45 years and most of them have known each other for close to 60 years.  Great food, a little drinking and a lot of chatting.  

Everyone likes going out to restaurants.  My  favorites from this year include The Bread Bar (pictured below), Twins Elephants Thai, Charred, Wild Orchid, Mandarin in Burlington,  Pho Dui Bo and Wass Ethiopian.   Pokeh in the Hamilton Market

Charred restaurant held a Latin Night and we decided to take advantage.  Special menu was great, the band was great, but what I most remember are the dancers from the crowd.  They were dazzling and a bit intimidating, but very enjoyable.

Here we are at the Bread Bar right on James St.

Best of 2019

English Speaking movies:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/12/the-best-of-english-speaking-movies.html

Subtitled Movies:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/12/the-best-in-subtitled-movies-viewed-2019.html

Books enjoyed:   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/12/books-i-remember-from-2019.html

My most popular blogs for the year:

Memory of a great time with co-workers to Las Vegas.

When the Raptors won I remembered my 60 years as a basketball fan.

my favorite movie of the year

To read about memories from 2018:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/01/memories-from-2018.html

One memory.  John Polkinghorne had suggested we should use in-floor heating for an addition.  Never thought of it, but the cats Oscar and Izzy love it.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Best in Subtitled Movies viewed 2019

Although I have separated my two movie blogs for 2019  you will find some of the most outstanding ones on both blogs.  Admittedly I have a bias and you have your judgment and can acknowledge difficult choices such as you feel when you have occasion to choose something to enjoy.  Lots of interesting movies to discuss. The large photographs indicate one of the ten best of each blog.  Smaller photographs represent enjoyable movies.  The write-ups are worthy of checking out.  I did leave out some worthy movies in an attempt to make this blog useful. This blog includes the two most favorite overall, but you may find a different preference as each film has its own value.


*Starting with one of the outstanding ones.  "The Invisible Guest" (2016) was copied for "Badla" (see below).  It starts with a crime that seems very straight forward,  A legal expert for the accused appears and assures that if they know the truth the murder can be gotten away with.  There are many layers to the truth and we gradually get to know about an extra marital affair and a blackmail attempt.  Interesting scenery from the Catalonia region of Spain.  The end is one of the biggest twists, set up beautifully.  Directed and written by Oriol Paulo.  Both movies are worth watching, so for a comparison (with almost no spoilers) see

"Roma"  (2018) Based on childhood memories of Alfonso Cuaron in Mexico. Lifestyle, not much of a plot  excellent cinematography.  Won best foreign film Oscar and went on to win other awards.

"Amador" t(2010) touching story well put together.  A woman in great need of money and pregnant takes a job caring for a man expected to die, but unfortunately dies quicker than expected thereby cutting off her income.  With the help of a hooker she hid the fact.  Before he died there developed a bit of a relationship  (with a few secrets) which after his death held some meaning.

"Everybody Knows" (2018) had three of my favorite actors, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Ricardo Darin.  Plus done by a respected director, Asgher Farhadi. Secrets are meant to be revealed.


"1991" (2018) Quebec writer/Director recalls his pivotal year when he was 21 and decided to pursue "the woman of his life" to Italy.  Charming how he deals with life's disappointments.  Part of a series.

"Pannique " (1946) was an excellent film.  Re-done    Based on novel of George Simenon  It focused on a victim in this case a false suspect and the harm suffered.

I watched a special feature on subtitles which was very illuminating.  The need for subtitles only started with talking pictures prior to which a panel would replace the regular scenes and could mislead as to foreign origin.  Two tendencies were to leave out dialogue or try every word.  The goal became conciseness that allowed some of the other film elements to have their impact.  Learn about some of the history http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/02/the-evolution-and-art-of-film-subtitles.html

"Les Miserables" (1958)  is an older version of the popular story.  A Victor Hugo quote suggests a necessary role of  films:  "As long as ignorance and misery exist in the world stories such as this will not be in vain." This version with Jean Gabin aid to be the closest to the book.

"Eternity's Gate" (2018) is as much English as French with the main character played by Willem Dafoe portraying Vincent Van Gog speaking mostly English .  The main complaints were about a hand held camera, a strident piano score and seemingly pointless walking which are all distracting, but are underscoring Van Gogh's fragile sanity.  Now considered a genius, but lived a life of rejection fighting against current social views particularly within art.  One statement stuck--Jesus was not significant in his life and not until decades after his death was he appreciated by larger masses.


*"Loveless" (2017) a very sad story.   A bitterly arguing couple, already with other lovers and planning a divorce upset their 12 year old son and he disappears.  The movie focuses on a search for him--at first bureaucratic and manpower shortages get off to a slow start, but does become fairly thorough.  We also view the parents as they try to make a new life.  At one point we are shown there is a housing crisis. I watched during the Trump impeachment hearings--a television interlude contained a lot of Russian propaganda regarding Ukrainian corruption.  Directed and co-written by Andrey Zvyagintsev.  read more of him and other Russian film makers.



"Luisa Spagnoli" (2016) was a made for tv movie.  An uneducated woman buys a confection business that eventually makes the famous Baci chocolates.  Along the way she proved herself more intelligent than many males who put her down.  She loved and was loved by two men.


Two movies from Ingmar Bergman.  "Shame" (1968)--an anti-war movie demonstrating how third parties are impacted with stronger powers collide.  Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow are excellent under direction and writing of Ingmar Bergman.  "Sawdust and Tinsel" (1953) by Ingmar Bergman
See an earlier blog on Swedish cinema with much more on Ingmar Bergman  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/06/swedish-movies.html

"Good Evening Mr Wallenberg" (1990) was about a Swedish business man who helped smuggle Hungarian Jews during WWII.  Stellan Skarsgard plays Raoul Wallenberg.


"The Captain" (2017)  set at the tail end of World War II.  It begins with deserters of which there were many.  One man desperate to survive comes upon a captain's uniform and decides to impersonate.  He became megalomaniacal killing traitors- like himself just trying to survive.   The director/writer wanted to show that it was more than just one man that caused the cultural disaster of Nazism

"Home from Home"(2013) filmed in black and white which emphasizes the gloominess as family struggles to survive with the hope of emigrating to Brazil where relatives had gone.


"What will People say" (2017) Combining resources of Norway with Bollywood.  The key was the adjustment of immigrant children.  Personally I encountered quite a bit as a newspaper circulation manager.  Immigrant children wanted to be accepted by their friends and naturally wanted to enjoy the fun.  Parents were often oblivious to these feelings and would be restricting which only caused more resentment.  In this film the teenage daughter has adapted to her Norwegian friends.  A boyfriend sneaks into her bedroom (with her help) and before they can do anything her father appears and is shocked as is the rest of the family.  Adil Husain ( who had key role in "EnglishVinglish" as a mild mannered husband) plays the strict father who takes his daughter back to Pakistan to stay with his sister.  More problems ensue. and she ends up back in Norway.  The Children Welfare tries to intervene, but she is scared to tell the real story.  The Pakistan setting is actually in India as the producer felt it would be safer.

"In order of Disappearance"  (2014) provides violence with lots of black humor.  Swede,  Stellan Skargard plays the main role, but is portrayed as an immigrant to account for language.  Stellan appeared in a number of Norwegian films as the languages are similar but distinguishable.   Americans might recognize him from "Mama Mia."


*"The Guilty" (2018) was mostly a one man show with support by telephone voices and brief appearances of other actors.  Jakob Cedergren was superb playing an emergency police telephone operator dealing with a kidnapping that turned out differently than expected.  His own personal dilemma was gradually revealed as it intertwined with his tough case. Very tense and gripping.  Some very big twists with some psychological impact.  Directed and co-written by Gustav Moller.



"Time of My life" (2012) shows some youthful exuberance or political activites, but the real point of the movie is about euthanasia.


"Working Woman" (20180 explores the difficulties encountered by women at work.  A man quits his job to start a restaurant and finds it more financially draining than anticipated.  His wife with three kids manages to get a job with her old army commander and does very well.  Unfortunately her boss uses his authority to make sexual advances to her which she keeps from her husband.  Eventually the boss goes too far and her experience comes out to her husband.  While she feels she is dealing with an intolerable situation in order to support her family he feels betrayed.  I had vowed not to support Israel because of their treatment of Palestinians, allowing myself some leeway to watch movies with a Palestinian perspective.  This movie had zero Palestinian perspective, but nonetheless I felt it had a message that needed to be shown and was done very professionally.  I borrowed it from the library after reading something interesting about it.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/the-bds-movement.html

"Foxtrot" (2017)is political and critical of Israeli bureaucracy and military.   Lior Ashkenazi, one of my favorite actors plays the father who is told his son died which leads to a grieving process and then after learns it was a mistake and their son is alive.  This leads to anger.  Palestinians play a small role as some are killed through an over reaction at a car stop.


*"Capernaum," (2018) an Oscar nomination tells a story from the viewpoint of a young boy caught in Mid East turmoil.  He sues his parents and from there we are taken to his background.   along the way we learn of illegal immigrants, one key character surprisingly from Ethiopia.  Directed and co-written by Nadine Labaki.



**"The Sky is Pink"(2019)  seen in December, after a few months of anticipation was my most enjoyable movie of the year.  It is a true story that is well told and will make you both cry and laugh.  Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar and Zaira Wisim were all exceptional.  Another satisfying movie from director/writer Shonali Bose.  Based on a true story that came to Shonali's attention by the grieving mother who was impressed with an earlier movie.  You follow a couple through 25 years and their marriage survives the trials of a dying daughter (who tells the story in a humorous manner).  Top overall movie of the year.

"Gully Boy" (2019) was supposed to be about rapping, but it was so much more.  Poverty forces difficult choices on people, opportunities can be dazzling, but lead one down a bad path.  Ranveer Singh, Kalki Koeklin and especially Alia Bhatt (who was perhaps the most outstanding one from last year's blog) were very good.  Rap music was presented in a fascinating manner.  Produced by Farhan Akhtar.  Read more http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/05/three-bollywood-films-that-got-my.html 

Read more about Farhan, a very versatile film maker:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/11/farhan-akhtar-young-man-on-rise-in.html

"Sanju" (2018) I thought would be junk but it earned its high praise.  Really good writing and acting.  A biography of Sanjay Dutt who led a most interesting life--big movie star, drug addict, branded a terrorist and womanizer.  Don't know the truth but very well told.  One of the very funniest movies I saw was "Lago d  Munnai Bhai" where Sanjay plays a humorous gangster who wants to impress a radio dj and ends up a disciple of Gandhi's ghost.  It is very funny, but also philosophical.  Paresh Rawal, Anushka Sharma, Vicky Kaushal and especially  Ranbir Kapoor --one joke do you have a boyfiend?  Yes.  He's a lucky guy.  Why, because I am beautiful and smart? No cause I am going to prison."  In the end the real Sanjay Dutt does a dance routine with Ranbir. Most entertaining

"Badhaai Ho" (2018) with Ayushmann Khurrana in a family drama with a lots of laughter.  About a family where the parents were in their fifties got pregnant.  Everyone had difficulty accepting it including Ayushmann's girl friend's mother.

*"Article 15" (2019)was one of the most relevant movies from Bollywood.  Ayushman Khurrana proves his versatility.  A policeman runs up against caste prejudice.  Directed  and co-written by Anubhav Sinha.


"Badla" (2019) a mystery with lots of twists and great acting--Amitabh Bachanchan set in Edinburgh.  read more at the link for "The Invisible Guest.

"Uri:  The Surgical Strike" (2019) retells  a recent military operation of a strike against terrorists..  Vicky Kaushal and Yami Gautam head an excellent cast.

"Kabir Singh " (2019) was a Bollywood remake of a Telegu movie, "Argun Reddy" (see below)  In some ways not a very nice person, but tragic.  His arrogance is overwhelming. For a comparison between the two blockbusters: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/arjun-reddy-and-kabir-singh.html

"Zero"(2018) had a tremendous buildup.  Shah Rukh Khan was going to be portrayed as a dwarf and there were going to be lots of celebrities.  The first reports was that the film was a flop, both artistically  and at the box office.  Part of the problem was its length when I finally got to see it.  Nonetheless it does have moments.  Marvellous how Shah Ruk Khan  was depicted as a dwarf.  Really good performances from Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma and Shah Rukh Khan himself.  Many goofy scenes, but also a few memorable ones.  Background music was enjoyable and cinematography impressive.  Other celebrities were in cameo roles.  Pleased to see Juhi Chawla--plus last film appearance of Sridevi whose obituary I wrote in my year end blog for 2018

"Chopsticks" (2019) a quirky plot enjoyable.  Abhay Deol.

"October (2018) is not a love story (exactly).  A flukey accident leading to a serious injury leads another to feel an involvement that changes his life.

"Soorma" (2018) was about a famous cricket player makes comeback after near death accident including a major spinal injury. 

"Period. End of Sentence" (2018) was a short.  About sanitary pads being more accessible and providing jobs.

"Ujda Chaman" (2019) was seen at the last minute.  Another movie about the superficiality of appearance.  The lead is prematurely bald and seems to be striking out with women.  This was well done and caught me a bit off guard.  As it happens I have been looking for Ayushmann Khurrana  "Bala" on a similar theme.  I am sure it will be good, but this makes a good message.

Regional Indian

*"Uyare"(2019) is one of the most satisfying movies.  It starts off with a dramatic plane crisis and then we are taken to the back story.  After the crisis is resolved we move onto the heart of the movie which concerns a serious problem for India.  This Malayalam film is directed by Manu Ashokan and written by Bobby and Sanjay.  Excellent acting from Parvathy Thiruvothu and Tovino Thomas.  Well edited for maximum impact  The second best overall.

Ready to wrap up this post when on Boxing Day learned of "Virus" (2019) another Malayalam film with the two stars from "Uyare" as well as Revathy.   It was based on a viral infection spreading around the city of Kerala, about two years ago.  Very well done and realistic. 

"Aalorukkam" (2018) was a very slow paced movie until the protagonist and the viewer were given a shock.  It happens about half way through the movie so it is a bit of a necessary spoiler to explain that the shock was meeting his son after 16 years and finding a daughter.  He does not accept it although many people try to help him accept, including a small girl.  At the very end is a bit of ambiguity and one hopes he does accept.  Spoilers are a difficult decision, as the shock is part of the value of this film, but in the long run perhaps the adjustment is also an important part of the value.  Malayalam.

"Njan Prakashan" (2018) starts off with a self centered man anxious to take advantage of others.  A qualified male nurse he has no desire to work in India. Towards the end of the movie gradually shifts  as does his attitude.  Malayalam.

Shonar Paher'  (2018)  Bengali film was writen, directed by Parambrata Chattopadhyay who also had a supporting role.  Best known for his role in "Kahaani"

"Rainbow Jelly" (2018) focuses on a young boy of low IQ and exploited by an uncle.  A woman appears like a fairy godmother to help him overcome his circumstances.  It is crudely believable, but also inspiring.  Bengali

"Awe" (2018) was the most interesting film in a technical sense.  It has a very complicated plot combining genres--comedy, fantasy, science fiction, horror.  At the end a simple resolution.  Held attention, with enjoyable music and cinematography  Telegu

"Arjun Reddy" (2017)  was a blockbuster movie in Telegu and since remade into a Bollywood blockbuster, "Kabir Singh"  At first we are subjected to a lot of boorish behavior, some of which were new items for me, but towards the second half he becomes more sympathetic as he becomes more desperate.   see the link for Kabir Singh.  A comparison of both  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/arjun-reddy-and-kabir-singh.html

"Oh Baby" (2019) was a remake of a Korean movie I enjoyed.  The Telegu version is a little longer and well done.  It reminded me of my wife's grandmother, known as Nanny.  See a comparison http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/comparing-two-grannies.html

"Evvarikee Cheppoddu," (2019) a Telegu film takes on a very serious topic, intercaste marriage, but with humor.  Despite the law equalizing castes there is still a prejudice against intercaste marriages and many Bollywood movies have used that to create tension in many romances.  Comedies also use tension as a tool and this movie is very slick, with deception helping to uncover family relationship problems and attitudes. We never learn what castes are involved in the romance making it a bit more universal.

"Power Paandi"  (2017) a Tamil film.   I am noticing Revathy as have seen her in two movies as mother and this one as grandmother.  Dhanush plays the young version of her lover.  The story is of an older man remembering his first love and going back to find her.  It does have a happy ending

"Taramani" (2017) another Tamil film, but not a typical comedy romance.  There is abusive behavior.  Lead woman Andrea Jeremiah was very appealing.  Nice music.

"Villai Pokool (2019) is primarily Tamil speaking, but with some English.  I had trouble watching, but a very interesting format.  You follow a retired southern Indian policeman in Seattle Washington to visit relatives.  His creative thinking is often visualized talking with absent people including victims, witnesses, etc.--an interesting twist at the end with a moral thought.

"Radiopetti" (2017) first struck me as a science fiction movie, but really it did use perhaps a science fiction tool to make a point.  It was about an old man, disrespected by his son who enjoy very simple things like listening to an old radio.  His adult son smashed the old radio and the father sort of accepted it.  The movie seems to drag on with the everyday boring activities of the old man.  After someone gifts him a transistor radio he becomes upset that it wasn't just a radio, but one that he associated with his father.  Soon he is jolted (2017)  and he begins to hear a radio in his ear, mostly just static, but from time to time he hears a play that brings him to tears and sometimes music that sets him gently dancing.  He is ridiculed and finally shamed into seeking treatment.  The point (I think) is that we should let people enjoy themselves.  Exceptionally nice background music. Tamil.

"Oththa Seruppu Size 7" (Single Slipper Size-7 2019) seen with two days to do is perhaps the most unique Tamil movie of the year.  An IMDB quote states that this film is one of only 13 in the world with solo act.  (The Guilty above is another).  In this case Parthiban is not only the solo actor, but also the director, writer and producer.  You hear other voices, that are mostly trying to make sense of what he is saying which seems like a series of confessions, most of which are not accepted.  It is deliberately confusing as you try to figure out if he is made, maybe really guilty of something or just possibly very clever.

"Bogda" (2018) is a Marathi film that is slow moving, but with a message that needs time to appreciate.

"Nathicharami" (2018) a Kannada movie took on the inequality in the sexual sphere.   A widow, loyal to her dead husband has sexual desires and finds it very difficult.  One man is told no kissing, or hugging or emotional attachment and he rejects her as he said nothing can survive in a vacuum.  She cultivates another man, not totally satisfed with his wife who rebels about his sexual expectations.  Still he initially rejects her bold requests.  As she points out it is much easier for men.

"Onaatah: Of the Earth" (2016) was an enjoyable low key movie about a gang rape victim's ordeal after she received some legal justice, but not social acceptance.  Living in a big city with a responsible job she finally found relief visiting an uncle and his wife in a rural area.  This movie was unique in that it is in a language Khasi that only has about 1 1/2 million speakers in the world.  That would seem a handicap in attracting a professional cast and crew, but it was very well done.

"III Smoking Barrels" (2017) was unique in location and languages  Hindi, Bengali, Assamese and Manipuri as well as English.  Songs in four languages.  4  separate stories with some links.  Many Westerners think Indian is basically one language when in fact the diversity of languages is a strength and a challenge.


*"Shoplifters" (2018) was a typical film for director/writer Hirokazu Kore-Eda who likes to focus on families.  This is a family of marginalized people who live together as a 3 generation family.  They certainly don't seem normal, but the viewer learns little bits gradually.  Very well done as usual

The Third Murder" (2017) also by director, Hirokazu Kore-Eda.  A little off his usual topics, but a reasonable murder mystery.   Interesting music I have been trying to track down by Ludovico Einaudi.

"The Sun (2005)" illustrates a problem in classifying the nationality of more and more films.  In this case the language is mostly Japanese with some English dialogue, but the production crew was mostly Russian.  The focus was on the Japanese transition after their surrender in WWII.  Another movie, Lore" had been  produced by Australia while the dialogue was mostly German.  Part of  the confusion comes from finance which is not only which nationalities are willing to contribute, but also which nationalities are able and willing to contribute the necessary creative artistic skills.


"Champion" (2018) received a low IMDB score, but I found it to be very effective.  The hero is almost brutish in his looks, but the actor, Dong-seok Ma plays a subtle range of emotions that you can't help feeling for him.  Arm wrestling might not seem all that exciting, but it is stretched into as powerful a sport film as any.  The hero is surrounded by crooked gamblers while he searches for his birth mother and is disillusioned when lied to about family connections.   In the end it is heart warming (maybe not such a big surprise) and along the way it develops a lot of emotions. Remake of movie with Sylvester Stallone

"Burning (2018) was a very big international award winner. 

"A Werewolf Boy"(2012) with a title that put me off, but took a closer look.  It really is about a feral boy (no human contact until his teen years), perhaps resulting from the over 20,000 Korean orphans created by war.  There is much misunderstanding and at one point some fantasy.  Very touching.

"Tune in for Love" (2019) came out in the middle of the year and was a romance.  Boy meets girl, then disappears, then shows up and then disappears, then he shows up again and they get together.  His past comes back and they part again.  At the end they get back together.  The two leads are very likable but beset with obstacles with very unfortunate timing.  Very well done


"Shadow" (2018) is a remarkable film.  It is a Wuxia film meaning there are exaggerated martial arts action and in this case very cleverly done.  The cinematography is unique and also very well done.  Most of the background is black and white while the color is shown with humans.  The plot is complicated with twists  The acting is very good.  Directed by Yimou Zhang ("The House of the Flying daggers  ).     Very realistic gruesome violence, somewhat tempered by the realization it is a fantasy.

*"The Farewell" is in many ways American, but a good part of the dialogue is in Chinese and most of the setting is in China.  More importantly it offers Chinese culture including philosophy.  The story is about a woman diagnosed to die while she is kept uninformed.  This saddens her American grand daughter who is told not to visit as she can't control her emotions, but of course she goes anyway.  Her cousin whose supposed wedding to a Japanese girl has great difficulty.  The strength of the movie is how the family supports each other.  Some surprising music adds to enjoyment--apparently singing is very popular at Chinese weddings.  Directed and written by Lulu Wang.


"The Wild Pear Tree" (2018) had an uninspiring story summary and a time of over three hours. What made it engaging was the dialogue.  A graduated student returns home with the ambition of getting a book published.  In his efforts he has a lot of conversations.  His father, an educated man has a gambling addiction.


"Touch" (2011) is really an American movie with a little Vietnamese dialogue and crew and cast.  I would say not much insight into Vietnamese culture, but an interesting story line about a manicurist who gets involved with a married mechanic having problems with his wife.  There was a little modern Vietnamese music that got my attention.

"Journey from The Fall" (2006) is another American production, but is almost totally in Vietnamese and is mostly set in Vietnam.  Brutally realistic focusing on the aftermath of the American departure.  Re-education and attempts to escape.  Family ties are broken through killings, but other relationships are formed and strengthened.  Carries over to America.


*"Starting Over Again" (2014) encouraged by "You're My Boss" this is very well done--my father used to say he hated movies when there weren't enough women to go around, but it also works when there are not enough men to go around.  This movie is about a breakup and the aftermath and boils down to a love triangle.  As we untangle the events we become more concerned about all three.  It is resolved in a realistic way and we realize that the situation is not all that uncommon in different degrees.   Directed and co-written by Olivia M. Lawason.  More on this movie and other Filipino movies at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/10/four-filipino-movies.html  One of the top movies of the year for me.

"Everything About Her" (2016) also made  a strong impression.  The two women leads, Vilma Santos and Angel Locsin were excellent and the male lead was perhaps a little above average.  The background music was enjoyable and I decided to buy the song played over the end credits which was in English.

To check on my favorite movies of 2018:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/2018-movies.html

The best of English Speaking movies seen in 2019

Retirement has me probably watching too many movies and wanting to share.  That makes for too much to read at one sitting.  You will find movies I enjoyed on two blogs (one for English speaking and the other for subtitled).  The ones I found outstanding  (10 each) are in either blog, so for my recommendations you need to consider both.  Everybody is unique so you might have to dig a bit to find something you would like.

Watching movies is not real life, but is a mirror to much of life.  What draws me in is the story with character development.  Everything else in window dressing, sometimes an enjoyable art by itself, but mainly an enhancement of the story.

The larger photos are  spread over the two blogs and were found to be the most outstanding.  Smaller photos were noteworthy.  The other write-ups are well worth considering.  To be honest there were others that you might enjoy, but too much is too much.


**"The Best of Enemies" (2019) was a lesson in mediation which for me made it superior to "The Green Book."  Altogether I saw six black themed movies that were all noteworthy http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/11/the-best-of-enemies.html

This was my favorite English speaking movie and enjoyed the special feature with the actual historical figures who are still friends.  Directed and written by Robin Bissell.  The lead was Taraj P. Henson who for a strong contrast also released in 2019 as lead for "What Men Want."  Sam Rockwell and Babou Ceesay were also excellent.

In addition to "The Green Book" I also saw "The Hate U Give," "The BlacKkKlansman" "If Beale Street Could Talk" and "Mudbound."  All of them presented hatred towards blacks and a fight back.  See below for a bit more.

*"Green Book" (2018) won 3 Oscars as best movie, best supporting actor for Maharshala Ali, and best original script shared by director Peter Farrelly and NickVallelonga and Brian Hayes Currie.  I picked up on the Italian family life handled by Vigo Mortensen.which rang true as well.  A classical/jazz pianist decides to perform in the Deep South where his music is appreciated more than he is.  A crude bouncer who is a bit prejudiced is lured by the money and gradually warms up and they bond.  Some enjoyable genre crossing music.  Until I saw "The Best of Enemies" this was my choice for best English speaking movie. and is still one of the best overall. 

"BlackkKlansman" (2018) was about historical events, but many names appear in current news including Donald Trump.  We all love to see people fooled and this is about as unbelievable as one gets.

"The Hate u Give" (2018) based on a true story where a young high school student witnesses a murder involving a police officer. The star, Amanda Stenberg was exceptional.

"Mudbound" (2017) was set in a southern rural area after the war.  Fighting in Europe one black resident enjoyed a measure of equality and one white resident came to respect them.  Back home the rest of their neighbors were just as bigoted as before.  The black man stood up for his rights and was pushed back.  He left a lover back in Europe and learned he was a father. 

In January saw "Searching"(2018)  It was unique.  First it was totally filmed as social media, even when you saw live action it was supposedly videos shown on a computer screen. It went through the process of how one would search for a missing person.  Second at about the same time as "Crazy Rich Asians" was attracting attention with an all Asian cast this film went one step further.  Asian actors were used not because the script called for Asians, but only as substitutes for the usual cast.  Told an interesting story.  Special features well worth viewing, especially for computer geeks.

"The Carer" (2015) was a very pleasant movie.  most enjoyable.  I think the main reason is for the young Hungarian woman who played the lead.  She was delightful.  The other lead played by Brian Cox was eloquent in an old codger sort of way with Parkinson's.  A pleasant background score.  Earlier I had blogged about Hungarian cinema before which I was unconscious of their contribution to world film, but this film illustrates their role.  In addition to the lead, much of the supporting crew was Hungarian   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/12/hungarian-cinema.html

"A Star is Born" (2018) was heavily promoted.  I loved the music.  This is perhaps the third remake.  Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.  The emotions are there.  A star on the way is revived after discovering a new talent.  She in turn becomes a big star making him feel a has been and she feeling guilty. 

"Bohemian Rhapsody" (2018)provides a history of Freddie Mercury, an immigrant with Indian parents who rose to rock fame in Britain.  He led a wild life, but sang some top hits including the title.

"Chappaquiddick" (2017) while not a documentary laid out facts that I wasn't conscious of.  It changes my vision of the Kennedy family.  I knew the father had done a lot of unethical things to attain the fortune, but except for infidelity I admired John and Robert Kennedy.  Ted Kennedy has been a great liberal spokesman, but his fidelity and honesty are also maligned.  Dramatic license perhaps tilts the impact, but they do seem consistent with the known facts.  Well presented

*"The Journey" (2016) an imagined conversation between Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein leader, Martin McGuinness.  They had a history of hating each other in the viiolent conflict of northern Ireland.  The two actors (Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney) are very good.  Toby Stephens played Tony Blair and had been a major supporting actor for Bollywood film : "Mangal Pandey"  Ireland has had a troubled history, but these two men swallowed their difference setting the path for a peace agreement. Directed by Nick Hamm and written by Colin Batemen

"Hotel Mumbai" (2018)brought home the notion that other countries have suffered from terrorism.  In this case we learn about fanaticism that allows for casually killing the "enemy."  As you watched the staff and guests move around you felt they could be discovered any second.  Dev Patel and Anupam Kher played Indian roles with Armie Hammer played an American tourist. 

Despite reading some criticisms that I  agreed with felt "The Public" (2018) was credible.  Emilio Estevez wrote, directed and was the lead actor.    It forces you to think about homelessness, mental illness.  Librairies are used for relief from extreme heat and cold.  Also with  a reference to how reading changing one man's life pointed out the importance of the free flow of information.

*"Five Feet Apart" (2019) gave me a better understanding of Cystic Fibrosis.  One of the key factors is that those who have Cystic Fibosis can worsen it in other people who already have it.  In fact they are to keep six feet away.  The "five feet" in the title is like a declaration of freedom, only there is always serious restrictions between patients, even though they have something in common and can empathize with the dilemma.  Haley Lu Richardson is very impressive.Directed by Justin Baldoni.

*"The Irishman" (2019)covered a hit man over the years.  What I found most fascinating was the connections between the Mafia and politics, especially the Kennedy family.  Also the Mafia connection to Cuba. Also pointed out that what hardened the hit man played by the ever excellent Robert DiNiro was his experiences in WW II.  Directed by Martin Scorcese.

"On The Basis of Sex" (2018) was sort of a followup to the documentary seen last year, "RBG".   In some ways it was more dramatic and made Ginsberg more human.  The documentary captured more of her life.  She is one of the most key people in America today as her health could tip the scales disastrously.

"Laundromat" (2019) was very confusing, but pulled together towards the end.  A very direct statement at the end pointed out that the government we voted for (specifically American represented the very rich who developed fraudulent opportunities for unscrupulous people to take advantages of honest people.  Actual names were used hitting home.  My concern is that  the little skits were not tied together as well as they might have been, but applaud the effort.

Older Movies

To appreciate modern movies it is good to watch older movies.  Not just to see the beginnings of modern technology, but to understand the importance of a story.

"Runaway Jury" (2003) had lots of twists.  It seemed a little extreme about jury tampering but in fact there have been many jury tampering efforts as a key offshoot of jury consulting.  Having not read the book I learned that there were differences as John Grisham used the tobacco industry as an emotional case instead of the gun lobby used in the movie.  They just wanted to have a divisive issue to illustrate corruption in the system.   The special features brought that actors have contratct that allow them to work on other films/prijects meaning there are time constraints on the director.  John Cusack at his best, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman and Rachel Weisz were all excellent.   Very similar in key ways with "Miss Sloane" http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/09/miss-sloan-under-rated-movie.html

"Trouble in Paradise' (1932)  was a masterpiece of its time and is still enjoyable today.  The director  Ernest Lubitsch was on the edge of bending censor.  The actors were all very smooth, especially Herbert Marshall, Miriam Hopkins and Kay Francis.   Brought over from Germany.   The writer Samson Raphaelson wrote the play that was used for the first talkie, "The Jazz Singer.."  the two teamed on a number of critically acclaimed films"Heaven can Wait" and "The Shop Around the Corner."  Read more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/04/ernest-lubitsch.html

"How Green was My Valley" (1941) was one of many John Ford directed movies seen.  This one of the more popular ones that was released despite concern over union content  Others included "The Quiet Man" (1952)  "Stage Coach" (1939) "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940).  You can read more at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/07/john-ford.html

Steve McQueen with "Papillon," (1973) " Cincinnati Kid," (1965) and "The Getaway" (1972). He defined "cool" more than anyone in Hollywood.  Surprised to learn he wanted to get away from action movies so he could be noted as a real actor.   "Soldier in the Rain" (1963)and "Love with The Proper Stranger" (1963) demonstrated that he was a very versatile actor, not always playing "cool."

"Dinner at Eight" (1933) was the only Marie Dressler movie I could find in either of my two librairies.  I had only read about her and what I saw didn't fit the profile of big movie star.   Born in Cobourg Ontario where apparently there is a museum dedicated to her.  She had been a star in silent films, but lost her top rank.  After talkies appeared and despite her age and weight she became a major star.  Jean Harlow and she shared a memorable dialogue.

"The Hurricane" (1999) was a movie I had refused to see when it came out as I had been led to believe it was inaccurate.  In another blog I remembered my refusal and imagined that I had been wrong.  Well I think I was wrong.  the movie was very believable and years later I am aware that there are lots of injustices.  Denzil Washington was outstanding.

"A Patch of Blue" (1965) with Sidney Poitier in a racially tinged drama.  A young uneducated and somewhat abused blind girl develops a relationship with a black man, not realizing it would lead to problems with prejudiced mother.

"A Christmas Carol" (1951) is my favorite version of this classic.  Originally its title was "Scrooge"   The main attraction for me is Alastair Sim, but I have to add the parts that are supposed to be scary really are scary.  I love Scrooge's laugh at the end.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)I didn't appreciate how great it was until watching the special features.  It follows one character from the Boer War, World War I and obviously part of World War II.

"The Whales of August" (1986) has a noteworthy cast with Bette Davis and silent star Lillian Gish.  They and Vincent Price and Ann Sothern portray the narrowing choices of age.

"I know my first name is Steven" (1989) relates a parental nightmare based on a real events. It is a very disturbing realistic tv mini series.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/05/i-know-my-first-name-is-steven.html

*"Touch of Evil" (1958) with Orson Welles, (who also directed and wrote the screenplay) Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh was about corruption.  Bit parts for Marlene Dietrich and Zsa Zsa Gabor.  Russell Metty was the cinematographer and in this film the introduction is regarded as a classic shot using cranes.  Walter Murch was involved in the 1998 re-edit.  Walter had been featured in a book on editing written my Michael Ondaatje who wrote "The English Patient and admired Murch for helping to keep the film faithful to the book.  Henry Mancini wrote the music inserting a jazzy feel to it.

Frankenstein (1931 )special features gave credit to Boris Karloff for changes

William Powell in the Thin Man series is something that escaped me until this year.   and My Man Godfrey

"Annie Hall" (1977)  written, directed by and starring Woody Allen.  Diane Keaton.

"Coming Home" (1978) was all about returning soldiers from Vietnam.  Jon Voight, Jane Fonda and Bruce Dern were excellent.

"The Petrified Forest" (1936) with Humphrey Bogart, Leslie Howard and Bette Davis.

"Evita" (1996) had low ratings, partly I think because not a traditional musical and thought to be fanciful history (mostly accurate).  it is a breakthrough in realism with great music.  Madonna, Jonathan Pryce and Antonio Banderas.

"Destry Rides Again"  (1939) with James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.

"Gentleman's Agreement"(1947)  explored anti Semitism including among those not thought to be prejudiced.   Gregory Peck played the level headed person remembered from "To Kill A Mockingbird" (1962).

*"Swing Time," black and white from 1936 was touted as the best of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and it is impressive for dance routines.  Glad to have seen the special features.  The music was memorable and it was pointed out that lyricist Dorothy Fields was very unique--"A fine Romance" is a very delicate mix of emotions, but also wrote a favorite  "The Way you Look Tonight ' Jerome Kern wrote the tunes with some help from R Russell Bennett (who jazzed up one tune to please Astaire)  Still another son, "Pick Yourself Up" was adapted for a Barrack Obama speech.  Bojangles in blackface apparently common  Bojangles, very talented helped develop breakthroughs--he refused to put on black face (blacks were expected to exaggerate their features) and appeared with Shirley Temple and on one occasion touched her. Although dated this is one of my favorites of the year.  Directed by George Stevens.

"Quills,"  (2000) had got my attention with a brief quip while channel hopping many years ago has finally been seen in full.  Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet are brilliant.  It recounts a time when the Marquis de Sade was in prison and somehow managed to write pornography that beat the censors.

"A Day at the Races (1937) featured the Marx Brothers and they certainly produce mayhem.  Groucho is considered one of the best with sarcastic quips.  "A night at the Opera,"

"Flame in the Streets" (1961) was a British take on racial relations and coming from the early 60's it was rawer in some ways.  John Mills plays a union man who fights to gain a promotion for a Jamaican and then learns his only daughter is thinking of marring a Jamaican.  His wife is very upset and he is concerned for the hardships he expects his daughter would encounter.  The movie ends with a violent racial clash and the parents not happy about the reality, but struggling to accept.

Science Fiction

*"The Day the World Stood still" (1951)  The cover makes it seem cheap, but being over 65 years it is quite thought provoking.  Released as nuclear tensions were gearing up.  As others have said it takes an outside force to make enemies talk to one another.  In the end it doesn't seem resolved, but meant to make the viewers think.  During the commentary with the director it was pointed out for him rehearsals were a luxury, because as soon as an actor was on the set they had to be paid even if the shooting didn't start for several weeks.  Billy Gray from Father Knows Best. a show I watched with my family for several years. Patricia Neal was an actress I have seldom seen, but associate her with having a stroke and being abandoned by beloved (?) children's author Roald Dahl.   Michael Rennie was brought in as a new face who played the space alien pretty much as a regular human.   Sam Jaffe had a supporting role and soon after was black listed. The science fiction employed a few special effects, but nothing like is normal today.  The point as good science fiction is to take an extreme story to make a stronger human point and in this case well done.  Directed by Robert Wise


Inter-title really refers to silent films and actually includes foreign films, but they all have English titles.

"The Hoodlum" (1919) with America's sweetheart, Mary Pickford  racist is some dialogue

"Master of the House" (1925) by Danish director/writer  Carl Theodor Dreyer who was considered one of the finest Danish directors.  the special features pointed out that he was one of the best for concern over details and I see he also was editor, art director and set designer.  A typical comedic story of a arrogant husband who has his comeuppance.

"The Freshman" (1925) glasses--stunts   Harold Lloyd  photo for this or Zorro

"The Mark of Zorro" (1920).  Had to see the swashbuckler who was one of the founders of United Artists.  Orson WElles did an intro and commented on the fallacy that silent stars couldn't do talkies using the example of Francis X Bushman who Welles hired for some of his radio programs after movie career ended.


"The Little Prince" (2015)used both CGI animated and stop motion techniques.  A story that I have been aware of, but never actually read in English (I did in French at one time for school and just translating is what I mostly got out of it).  Done as a story within a story giving extra meeting.

"Princess Mononoke"  (1997)is listed as Japanese, but as an animated film is easily dubbed by Americans.  Japanese writer/director and Joe Hisiashi music

*"Moana"(2016) aimed at children is delightful with infectious music.  Directed by Ron Clements who also co-wrote.


*"This Changes Everything" (2015) was based on, but updated from a book bought a few years ago by Naomi Klein.   book updated--Danny Glover exec producer The book was excellent and the movie made the ideas more accessible..  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/02/this-changes-everything-deserves-major.html

"Won't you be my neighbor?" (2018) very mild mannered, but involved with social issues--we all develop our habits and outlook as very young children--dealt with racism, autism, assassination trauma, death divorce bullying.   Not yet seen the Tom Hanks drama

"Rumble.  The Indians who Rocked the World"  (2017) Most of us grew up thinking that blacks brought us rock n roll, but overlooked was the influence of indigenous musicians.  It was pointed out that most of the Africans brought over as slaves were men.   Even as slaves they mixed with aboriginals, and as runaways they mixed with Indian tribes.  There were a number of surprising Indian descendants such as Jimmy Hendrix.  The Band was driven by Mohawk Indian Robbie Robertson.  Influences extended to performers like Tony Bennett.

"Eating Animals" (2017) was a mind bender.   Focused on factory farms that are gaining legal protection.  They cause serious health and environmental problems.   A problem not discussed what will done to the animals after we all convert to veganism:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/what-happens-to-farm-animals-when.html

"The High Cost of Cheap Gas" (2015) tells of the problems of fracking (earthquakes, poisoning).

"The Burden of Dreams" (1982)  recounts the many ordeals and determination to film "Fitzcarraldo." a movie set in a remote part of South America.  More details of this movie and of Werner Herzog can be read at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/08/werner-herzog.html

"The Uncondemned"  (2015) told the story of the effort to charge rape as war crime in Rwanda.

"Letter from Masanjia" (2018) documents cruelty in China.  The Falun Gong seen as challenge to communist government.  A victim was tortured and his wife fearing for her life divorced, later wanted to remarry, but more difficulties.  

"The Russian Five" (2018) chronicles five Russian hockey players who helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup.  Had lost interest in hockey years ago, but loved watching their international style of play with a greater emphasis on passing.  Also  for many it was a surprise that they were human.  A lot of politics to free them up.  Check out http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/09/the-red-army.html

Check out the subtitled post  It may seem strange, but I actually found more outstanding movies, including my 2 favorite overall in the subtitled category and hope you will check them out.  Part of the reason is there are more movies to choose from. 

To check on my enjoyable movies seen in 2018:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/2018-movies.html