Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Character and policy; a confession

Listening to political pitches and trying to evaluate past history we all need to consider many factors to make a reasonable choice.  For those who think about policy a few character flaws might be acceptable if their policies are moved forward.  I confess getting what I really want helps me to overlook or forgive minor transgressions and believe most people are not much different.  On the other hand policy is difficult and is almost always in a context with other policies that requires prioritizing and bargaining.  So character can be a decisive factor in a vote decision.  Yet both these factors have to fit into whatever system is operating.

Successful politicians must somehow convince a wide range of people to get elected.  They will offer policies and promote their integrity.  Any policy they do offer is likely to offend some voters so they are careful to minimize.  A good blend of policies supported by a good image may gather enough voters to gain power even if a majority are displeased.

Policies I support include dealing with climate change, with injustice, with the danger of nuclear war, with the displacement of refugees and the quality of life.  There are a lot of powerful vested interests that oppose policies that effectively deal with these concerns.

The Republicans have a set of policies that represent the wants and needs of the wealthy.  In all cultures the rules are made by the powerful, but to some extent it is necessary to placate the masses.  This has been done by such things as offering "bread and circuses," and catering to prejudice.  Humans seek pleasure and avoid pain.

The conservatives feel they deserve to enjoy their wealth to the maximum and resent others who want to be treated fairly at their expense.  This is natural and if you don't believe me take a closer look.  This doesn't mean there are no benevolent wealthy and powerful people, but to get to the very top it is easier to discard or minimize weaknesses.

In order to win the co-operation, especially in a nominal democracy something must be offered to the masses.  There are many prejudices that can be sparked by pointing out how one group gets some "advantage"  Outsiders are always easy prey.

Some issues lay dormant until someone points them out.  We go about our daily pursuit of the good life with little thought to bigger issues.  Climate change, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, injustice, displacement of refugees and the international economic order do not dominate most of our daily thinking, but can upend everything.  Government policies affect not only our daily battles, but also these overarching concerns.  Nobody has exactly the same views on these issues, nor can anyone understand all the complexities so in one sense integrity over rides policy.

All this to say Donald Trump is a big mistake for character and policy.  Rich powerful people like some of his policies (and he has determined which ones attract their attention) and smart people have determined how to attract the attention of enough voters to force a package of policies onto the citizenry.

Two examples of what concerns the wealthy are taxes and regulations.  Taxes mean they have to share their wealth with others and regulations restrict their profits.  Both these concerns often work against those less powerful.

Examples of catering to prejudice include laws surrounding minority rights and immigrants.  Sex is a big area of righteousness.  Promiscuity is sinful.  Abortions and contraception (any promotion of sex) are evil as is homosexuality.   Guns make people feel safer against violence and others feel powerful against outsiders.  It is amazing that even here in my opinion people are voting against their own interests.  The rich and powerful can to some extent ignore laws.

Evangelicals who form an integral part of Trump's base are convinced Israel is a key to the resurrection of Christ and insist on supporting Israel regardless of the Palestinian occupation.  This feeling is so strong they are able to overlook major character flaws that are normally considered unforgivable.

If a politician is willing to cater to one issue voters they can enact their agenda no matter how it impacts the rest of the population (including those one issue voters).

Being a politician is an impossible job.  If you aren't elected there is nothing much you can do except protest and somehow hope that reason wins the future.  Perhaps the most practical thing is to develop and support particular policies and use both logic and marketing skills to make the policy improvement.   Working with others with compatible policy ideas strengthens both, but inevitably at some point compromises have to be made.  My bottom line is people need to be educated.

For voters it really is complex deciding who to support.  In many systems there are basically two choices that can get power.  There is a package of policies and characters to  decide.  In multi party systems  with a first past the post setup a voter can decide which package makes the most sense, but often it is complicated with the practical desire to prevent an undesirable outcome.  As usual I favor the proportional system where you can decide the best package (policies and character) and your voice will have a greater impact, although maybe not as strong as you wished.

The photo is of immigrants at a location near where I live.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The NON-INDICTABLE SINS OF TRUMP

He got in and there is very little that can be done before 2020.  There certainly were enablers, some of whom you can read about   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/07/trump-enablers.html

Any president should be allowed some mismanagement and to some degree all of them are guilty.  Too bad life threatening mistakes are legal, but at least some mismanagement can be amended with a new election.

Trump is admired by a significant portion of the population while others prefer to look elsewhere declaring that politics either bores them or is too much.  Unfortunately his mismanagement (much of which is deliberate) affects everyone and not just Americans.  Many people would add to my list, but in my mind he is guilty of GROSS mismanagement that needs to be punished.  Here are a few.

Pulling out the Paris Climate Agreement.  This is a global problem with global obstacles in the form of vested interests and ignorance.  United States despite a relatively small population contributes a major share of the problem.  They fancy themselves as global leaders and in this case I believe they should be.  While blaming China and others it is the U.S. that would make the most progress by setting an example.  Most other nations would follow their lead.  Obviously some of his supporters have a vested interest, but everyone, especially in the future will suffer.

Pulling out of the Iran agreement is inflammatory.  Not perfect, but the imperfections are more than tolerated when found elsewhere.  To build on what has already been agreed to not only by American negotiators, but also from Russia, Britain, Germany, France and Germany means other entities with their vested interests are  being ignored.  The purpose was to cut the proliferation of nuclear weapons that threaten us all.  Trump is catering to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Spreading hatred against minorities especially immigrants.  Many Americans think their country should be white, but in truth diversity is strength.

Supposedly some people believe Trump is hurt that anyone would question his legitimacy and feels threatened by the suggestion that Russian helped him.  Maybe so, but nonetheless Russians seem to influence decisions.   They are the ones who want to break up international co-operation.

 Vested interests are put in positions of power over finance, consumer protection and the environment.

The judicial system is being changed as something they are most proud of.  Many voters assume this will make abortion illegal and further assume it is the best way to minimize abortion.  At the same time they are tightening what Planned Parenthood can do.  I maintain the best way to reduce abortion is to increase sex education, accessibility to contraception, parental leave, financial assistance for young parents, health care for all, all things resisted by conservatives.

Obviously Trump wanted to please the anti abortion group that tends to be a one issue voter.  But the Supreme Court deals with many other issues and a conservative dominated court tends to favor big business and executive power.  It is galling that Mitch McConnell was able to stymie an Obama nomination.  Also that the Republicans rushed in Kavanagh despite some concerns that were not adequately addressed.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

China and the NBA

How would you believe a few words, "Stand for Hong Kong" could cause such a response?  There was the Chinese end of it and then there was the NBA response.  No question that money rules the world.

The Chinese public never knew of the brief Twitter as it was blocked.  Also they do not get an honest explanation for the Hong Kong riots.  When you are autocratic and with enough leverage you can force your will on anyone who wants to do business with you.

The morals of the story are obvious in that powerful bullies don't worry about morals.  Plenty of others have commented on the morals.  What can be done?

As long as we worship money (and it is pretty important to me) we are obligated to do things we would not otherwise do--including much of work or keeping your mouth shut.  Looking around the world many established companies (and those hoping to gain traction) see China with its huge population and growing middle class as the best available opportunity.

China has its own sensitivities.  They feel they are overcoming humiliation and resent any reminder vestiges.  Having colonials impose their will on the Chinese people who felt they had a glorious history can make you a bit touchy.  There are different languages, different cuisines, but they are united under an autocratic government. We hear of conflicts involving Tibet (the Dalai Lama is my hero), Taiwan and the Uighurs.  To "control" the population the authorities have imposed censorship not only within their nation but to outsiders hoping to make inroads.

On one side of the bargaining table are greedy entrepreneurs salivating over the huge numbers of potential customers.  On the other side is someone wanting to please their customers (their citizens wanting a higher standard of living).  It may seem uneven between our side and the Chinese, but we do have things they want--our markets, our technology and ideas, our resources and some of the razzle dazzle we take for granted.  On top of that there is a natural human craving for more freedom.

Can the tail wag the dog?  We do have leverage.  The Chinese like lots of western things including the NBA.  When Yao Ming  made it to the NBA that generated a lot of national pride as well as interest in basketball.  A few other Chinese have played lesser roles.  A few years back, Jeremy Lin (of Taiwanese heritage) created "Linsanity" where he won a number of games with the last shot.  Many Chinese people would be upset if they couldn't get their NBA "fix."  It is doubtful that Chinese would give up Olympic aspirations for basketball which ensures interest will continue.  Everyone wants to see the best and aspires to be a part of it.

Adam Silver did salvage a little dignity by declaring individuals have the right to express themselves.  On other issues he has been very commendable and one can hope he will get back to form.

Citizens of the world are better off when we share culture.  Westerners love cheap Asian goods and exotic culture.  It is a two way street which most of us enjoy when we are able to expand our interests.  The Chinese are no different.  They are just fascinated by different cultures as we are.  All efforts to boost cultural exchanges are to be encouraged.

What we have that Chinese people want as much as anyone is relative freedom.  We can pretty well say whatever we want, listen to whatever we want, seek pleasure in whatever direction.  They don't fully know this, but we can try to expand their awareness.  When they cut off coverage of the Houston Rockets (and NBA champion Toronto Raptors)and LeBron James there are bound to be disappointed people, including people with some measure of power.  While we are being seduced by potential riches they are being seduced by western culture.

Technology is being used to create another iron curtain or maybe one should say cyber curtain.  China can try to isolate itself, but that will create resentment among the people.   Hong Kong is unique, but they are perhaps on the front lines of freedom.  If they can hold out it will be harder and harder for authorities to keep the truth from the rest of China. 

Perhaps this issue got my attention as I love basketball and have been involved for over 60 years.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/my-60-year-love-affair-with-basketball.html

The Chinese are bringing more of the culture to the rest of the world with movies.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/08/chinese-cinema-is-peek-into-their_1.html

The photo is from a Chinese movie I thought was well worth watching with some insight into one child policy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Douglas Sirk, a more appreiated director after his death

 When one explores older movies, history brings out things that are long forgotten or taken for granted.  The name Douglas Sirk repeated itself a few times and my first notion was he must be some sort of art movie favorite.  Lately my feeling is that he was a manipulator of making stories enjoyable, but to point out some of the foibles of American society.

After his retirement his reputation rested on a series of movies that are considered "melodramatic."  Some critics had a low opinion of such movies, but later, after he finished in Hollywood his style was more appreciated.  Jean-Luc Godard and Rainer Werner Fassbinder praised him from Europe and slowly he was recognized for his contributions.

Born in Germany in 1897 of Danish parents as Detlef Sierck, a name used for his early German films.  At age 14 he developed an interest in both theatre and cinema. He studied law University of Munich, but switched to University of Hamburg to study art and philosophy.  In 1922 he directed his first stage play.  His first  feature was shot in Dutch and then in German.  His films were admired b Dr Joseph Goebbels, but in 1937 left Germany.  His first wife was a Nazi sympathizer and denounced him for marrying Hilde Jary, a Jewish actress.

He left Germany as a well respected director and had learned much that carried forth to his American career.

In 1941 he and his wife reached Hollywood.   His first U.S. directed film in 1943 was "Hitler's Madman," an account of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Czech resistance fighters.

"Summer Storm" was released in 1944 adapted from an Anton Chekhov novel.  Starring George Sanders who had a sarcastic wit, much used in this film.  In 1944 he did another film, "A Scandal in Paris" with Sanders.  George Sanders proved to be reliable and was later in at least two more films.

In 1947 Lucille Ball was the lead actress for "Lured," a serious movie, but a viewer can appreciate Lucille's timing. 

 Next come the films that Sirk is best remembered for.  In 1954  "Magnificent Obsession," with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman, a couple that he brought together a year later for "All that Heaven Allows."

In 1956 Sirk was involved with "Never Say Goodbye," but not credited as he was called in for a re-shoot at the request of George Sanders and the studio.  He also was responsible for bringing in the leading actress Cornell Borchers from Germany.

"Written on the Wind" was also in 1956 again with Rock Hudson, this time with Robert Stack, Lauren Bacall and Dorothy Malone (who won the Oscar best supporting actress).

A year later he reunited  Rock Hudson, Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone for "Tarnished Angels."  William Faulkner whose novel was the basis approved it has a good adaptation.  Noted for airplane sequences.  Rock Hudson endeared himself to Robert Stack by a surprise towing of a sign "IT'S A GIRL by stunt pilot to commemorate the birth of his first child.  Rock Hudson also insisted on including a young Troy Donahue in the cast.

In 1959 Sirk wrapped up his American career with "A Time to Live and a Time to Die" (from novel by Erich Maria Remarque) and "Imitation of Life."  Starring Lana Turner at a critical time in her personal life one critic called this the saddest movie--read more at: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/08/the-power-of-sad-movies.html

Uncomfortable with the Hollywood lifestyle (such as nude swimming parties) he  left with his wife for Lugano Switzerland in 1959.  He was a supervising director for 3 German shorts before his death in 1987 in Lugano.

His most remembered films were considered "women's pictures" what today we might call chick flicks.  They contained all the elements; romance, tragedy, melodramatic music and crying.  Dig a little deeper and some critics appreciated his technical skills.  He was a subtle social critic.  His films depicted strong intelligent women.  Other themes included upper middle class snobbery, hypocrisy, racial tensions and faulty masculine ideals.

Rather than rely on monologues he hired actors based on personality with emphasis on getting on with the other actors.  He used lighting and mirrors to help create moods.

No person succeeds in life without  a supporting team.  Altogether he directed 5 actors to Oscar nominated performances with one, Dorothy Malone winning.

Rock Hudson has a reputation of a glamour boy, but Sirk saw somebody he could work with.  His looks and his voice helped make him one of the most popular stars from Hollywood.  Aside from the movies cited Rock appeared in several other Sirk directed movies.  He was nominated for an Oscar with "Giant."  He later starred in a successful tv series, "McMillan and Wife."  After he was diagnosed with AIDS he donated $250,000 to help launch the National Aids Research Foundation.  He had been quoted saying that Sirk was like a dad for him.

Music played a strong role and the key composer was Frank Skinner.  Frank had a very prolific and versatile list of  musical scores.  He was most famous for music for horror movies.  He wrote the scores for "Magnificent Obsession," "Written on the Wind," "All that Heaven Allows." "The Tarnished Angels," "Imitation of Life," and at least two others.

Sirk had at least three interesting cinematographers that supported his efforts.  Like Sirk, Eugen Schufmann had been born and trained in Germany.  He moved to France in 1933 and  in 1940 he moved to the U.S.  He had developed a process for optical special effects that was eventually replaced by newer techniques and materials.  He joined what amounted to the wrong union and found that due to regulations he was not credited for many of his movies.  For Sirk he handled "Hitler's Madman," "Summer Storm" and "Scandal in Paris."  He won an Oscar in 1962 for "The Hustler."

Russell Metty first got into the film business starting as a lab assistant and then became an assistant camera man and by 1935 RKO has hired him as lighting camera man.  He handled one of the highlight scenes from "Touch of Evil" and had gone onto get an Oscar nomination for "Flower Drum Song" and an Oscar win for "Spartacus."  For Sirk, he handled some of the more well known films, "Written in theWind," "All that Heaven Allows," and "Magnificent Obsession" plus 7 others.  He worked on many television series such "Columbo," ""the Waltons" and "Rich Man, Poor Man."

William H Daniels directed 4 films for him including "Lured."  His fame is established for the 21 films he directed with Greta Garbo and winning an Oscar for "The Naked City" in 1948.

When we watch movies it is very difficult to appreciate how the thinking and work that goes into creating a mood.   Douglas Sirk is now regarded as an excellent artist, but many fans already loved his films before the critics came on board.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

ARJUN REDDY AND KABIR SINGH

Both "Arjun Reddy" and "Kabir Singh" have garnered a lot of attention, but seemed a bit scary for me.  Nonetheless the marketing seemed too much to ignore.  And it just happened that Netflix carried both of them.



First up for me was "Arjun Reddy, " the original and at times I wasn't sure I saw what I thought I saw.  The ultimate proof was that "Kabir Singh," the remake had many of the same things in pretty much the same sequence.  A number of the items must have been testing censor boards.

One scene had the protagonist scooping up ice cubes and putting them in his pants so that he appeared to have wet his pants.  Another scene depicts using an electric razor to cut off male pubic hair.  There seems to be a steady dose of drinking, smoking, cocaine and morphine.  Swearing (in multiple languages (English, Hindi, Telegu, Kannada, Tuli) were constant.

The hero in both films was egotistical, obsessive and had an explosive temper.  Not the typical hero.  From time to time this behavior contrasted with deep concern for patients and an acknowledgment of logic.  The heroinne in both cases was attractive, modest and somewhat resistant until the inevitable capitulation to the hero.  Their first encounter was mind boggling in that the hero (I am using this term loosely) interrupted a class, centered out the heroinne who he had no previous contact with demanded she move to the front, then selected an overweight girl to sit beside the heroinne saying such girls made the best friends and throughout this experience spoke in a language not known to the instructor basically telling the rest of the male students that she was his girl and they were not to interfere with this relationship.   Before too long they were living together despite college rules against such things.  She became very attached to him and vice versa.

It took awhile but her father who had met the hero rejected the idea forcefully and arranged an almost immediate marriage for his daughter.  The father was concerned about caste and the immoral behavior.  From there the movie follows the moral downfall of the hero into drugs and drinking.  At the same time he is so talented as a doctor that all is forgiven, or mostly forgiven.  That is, until he falls so far his medical licence is taken from him.  Although will tell anyone his love is undying is not against straight sex.  One dramatic scene is when a major movie star offering sex declared she loved him, but he very harshly rejected her as he was not looking for love.  After all this drama (and more not related) the movie has a happy ending.  In some ways it seemed like a big cheating, but its saving grace was the powerful homage to undying love.

Is it realistic?  Not in my reality, but by its dramatic thrust it makes for compelling viewing.

The common link between the two films is Sandeep Reddy Vanga who wrote and directed both.  To be allowed such artistic freedom and a big budget it was really surprising this was his first film as writer and lead director.  His background is in the Telegu film industry but he did study at the International Film School in Sydney, Australia.  He did work as an assistant and associate director  in two earlier films.  While filming "Arjun Reddy" his son was born and his name became Arjun Reddy.

The lead actor for both films is very critical as he has to be believable, but not go overboard with a very violent, but nuanced character.   Both versions found such an actor.

Vijay Deverakonda had done a few Telegu movies starting in 2011, many of them comedies and he was credited with being a natural.  He has been a playback singer in two subsequent movies.  His career seems to have taken off.

Shalini Pandey played the Telegu heroinne as her first film.  She has followed the path of many southern actresses and has gone on to do movies in Telegu, Tamil and Hindi.

Shahid Kapoor was given the Bollywood lead by the director after viewing Shahid in "Udta Punjab" but one of the financers had wanted someone else.  Shahid was a very good choice.  He had been in a lot of romantic comedies, including "Jab We Met," a master piece with ex girl friend Kareena Kapoor. In contrast to "Kabir Singh" he appeared in "Vivah" where he played a young man whose father arranged a wedding with the full blessing of both families and Shahid's character.  Shahid had established a reputation as perhaps the second best male dancer in Bollywood, but it wasn't enough to sustain his career and he played in a few duds.  In the last few years his acting was recognized more and more.  He was excellent playing the troubled Kabir Singh.

Kiara Advani played the heroinne.  She had established her reputation in "M.S. Dhoni:  The Untold Story."

Both versions of the story have been top financial successes.  There are plans for a Tamil version.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Impeachment

What a dilemma!  Doing the right thing could backfire with disastrous consequences.

Assuming the Democrats finally go ahead and publicly impeach Mr Trump and carry the House of Representatives it is further assumed that Mr Trump will retaliate and unleash even worse measures and very possibly get re-elected as we also assume the Senate will reject impeachment.  Meanwhile he will stall as much as possible thereby strengthening the case for obstruction.  He will try to run out the clock.

The merits of the case are very obvious.  It also seems that many people will ignore them in favor of what they believe Trump has done on their behest.  Stood up against the Mexicans, minorities of all sorts, reset the judicial system to abolish abortion, legistlate tax deductions and maintain their gun rights.  Not impeachable, but very troubling was dropping out of both the Iran agreement (which more people can appreciate was counter productive) and the Paris Climate agreement.  It is obvious these decisions were not in the interests of Americans.  Less obvious to many is that the deficit is on track to increase dramatically.

The retaliation seems very likely, but an examination might be worthy.  For the Republicans who dared to vote against him--they will be primaried and likely to lose their positions to Trump's rabid base.  On the other hand this may further tip the balance against Trump and the Republicans.  His base seems to be somewhere around 30%, fairly well situated to take advantage of the electoral college, but that includes a lot of voters who are concerned about his morals but like his results/efforts.  And there are also the apathetic voters who felt their vote wasn't worth the effort but now many will be upset and fearful of what the president might do.

Some Democrats are in sketchy territory.  They are the ones where Trump triumphed in 2016 and they squeaked by in 2018.  Some of them might well lose, but again other factors will play a role.  Trump supporters that have been disillusioned and the apathetic voter now realizing their vote could make a difference.

A frightening possibility is a civil war.  Trump will claim his enemies are acting against the constitution.  An election loss was rigged.  I have been impressed how his base overlooks all his many faults.  They really believe there is a conspiracy of established corporations, poliitical powers  and anti-Trump media.  The electorate has been polarized more than ever and it is difficult to imagine that either side would accept any outcome.  There doesn't need to be organized warring armies to do permanent damage to American ideals.

What are the Democrats to do?  They will be hated by Trumpists and upset their followers who fear the result.  If not sooner the issue will come to a head this Thursday when information legally required is to be delivered.  Maybe it will and maybe even it might exonerate the President.  At best any evidence legitimizing Trump will be suspicious.   The context that is already known is pretty damning.    The Mueller Report, despite being dismissed actually already contains impeachable evidence.

A lot of big money (especially fossil fuels, private prisons pharmaceuticals, gun manufacturers) will have to make a decision that may be increasingly difficult.  Do they support the president who represents their vested interests or do they take a longer view and support the good of the country which might be necessary to maintain consumer support.

It boils down to how well the Democrats present their case.  It is likely they will develop an audience comparable to that for the O.J. Simpson trial, but important to remember although the evidence was pretty damning he got off.  One concern has to be not to appear partisan.  The Corey Lewandowski hearing was handicapped with grandstanding of elected politicians while the best points were made by legal experts whose efforts had little public awareness.  So far he escaped contempt of court.

Television can attract a bigger audience than did the Mueller Report.  There is sure to be clever and loud objections to the evidence.  Unfortunately nothing will be accomplished during the trial and that will of course be blamed on the Democrats.

In a matter of hours this blog can be outdated.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Comparing Two Grannies Korean and Telegu

A few years back a Korean film, "Miss Granny" was available on Netflix and got my attention.  An interesting story with some pleasant music, but what really I remember is how the main character reminded me of my wife's Grandmother, known as Nanny.    More recently saw another version, this one in Telegu and titled "Oh Baby."  Starting to research the two movies it was learned there are several versions I suspect because of the interesting story.
You can find the story in Korean, Telegu, Mandarin, Filipino Indonesian, etc.

Nanny sold us our house, babysat my two children and hosted many family gatherings.  I used to shovel her sidewalk and dig her garden.  Mind you, she is not exactly the same as the two grannies in this film blog, but she is a strong woman. and a superb Italian cook. Enjoyed life and her grandchildren and great grandchildren.  A porch companion was Uncle John, a widower formerly married to her sister who was a handy man saving us tons of money and made our home more livable.  In a real sense Nanny is an inspiration for this blog


Similarities between the two films.  A 70 year old, meddler, loved deeply by her son, upsets her daughter in law.  Her son can't bear to ask her to go, but his daughter is blunt to let granny feels unwanted.  The Granny works with and has a widower friend from her childhood.  He is thought of as an uncle.  When through a fantasy intervention she gets the body of a 20 year old.   She has a beloved grandson with a somewhat screechy band that she takes over and turns out to be a big hit.  She is approached by younger men and in the Telegu version is responding and doesn't want to give up her new life, but does tell her old friend, the widower next door as he is about to bring in the police as he thought the young woman had kidnapped the older woman.  The family looks for her while the band reaches the finals and the grandson on his way has an accident.  Both movies use the same mechanism in dramatic fashion to restore her to herself.  If you are inclined to cry at sad movies you probably will shed a few tears towards the end, BUT it ends with a big laugh

Both movies a blood transfusion fills the role of a fulcrum. The need for one forces a life changing decision.  Still a part of the overall fantasy, but changes the mood temporarily.

Another element from both films is discrimination of old people.   The younger version criticizes a young man criticizing an older man who was flirting with the young granny.  The whole film projects the idea that it is better to be young, but it also points out that elders deserve respect.

I remember the basic story from the Korean version, but inevitably have forgotten a few details although the newer version helps bring back some details.  The difference in film time is over 30 minutes so it seems more details were added in for the Telegu version.  The Telegu version has a more extended romance with a younger man and more family conflict  In the Korean version her grandson attempts to attract the young granny and in her thoughts his grandmother says they are the same lines used by her husband.

Music is important.  The old granny feels she could have been a singer, but never got the chance. In her youthful version she becomes a popular singer.

In the Korean version, the music is by Mowg who won an award for "Miss Granny."  Also provided music for "Burning" and "Masquerade."

Mickey J. Meyer did the music for "Oh Baby"  His musical career began with symphonies and piano pieces, but he admired Hans Zimmer, Enio Morricone and A R Rahman and gravitated to films, mostly Telegu and Malayalam.  His music is described as slow moving, lacking thumping beats, but popular.  The background music was much appreciated.     

The original writer is Dong-ik Shin and he is credited with some of the new versions of his script, but not for "Oh Baby."  Dong-hyuk the director and co-writer, sometimes also gets credit with newer versions.  He wrote and directed "Silenced," one of my highlighted movies from 2018 blog.

"Oh Baby" was of course adapted with Laksmi Boopal handling the Telegu dialogue and song lyrics.  Gopimolan supervised the script and director Nandini Reddy also was involved in the writing.

Nandini Reddy has overcome barriers to be a female director.  Started with a children's film and then found it difficult to get work until a year later directed a movie in Kannada. 

Cinematography in "Miss Granny" was handled by Ji-yong Kim.  He had been a camera assistant for a joint Korean-American film "Okja"  Other films of  his included "The Age of Shadows" and "Silenced"

Editing for "Miss Granny" was done by Na-young Nam who had also done "Mother" and "The Good, the Bad the Weird."

"Oh Baby" had Richard Prasad in charge of cinematography and Junait Siddiqui handling editing.

In both cases the actress who played the younger more active version of Granny  was central to the plot while the original Granny was played by a veteran respected actress.

Eun-Kyung Shim played the rejuvenated Oh Doo-ri  won a few best actress awards for this film--did her own singing--also appeared in "Train to Busan" and "Masquerade."  Oh Mai-soon, winner of several national awards played the original Granny.


Laksmi, a vertern actress played the older grandmother.  She has done 400 films including Tamil, Telegu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi.  She turned her back on Bollywood as she felt she would only get female stereotype roles and preferred more socially relevant roles available to her in southern India.  Her daughter Aishwarya ironically has the role of the beleagured daugher in law.


Samantha Ruth Prabbu played the young Swathi.  As is common in India she has a backup singer, Nutana Mohan taking care of the songs very well while Samantha lip synched and danced in some cases.  First noticed her in"Eega "(most unusual story line involving a lover reincarnated as a housefly as her lover, but very popular).  Samantha is bilingual in Telegu and Tamil and has won awards acting in both languages.  She has made money as a brand endorser and model and since 2012 has channeled much of her money through a charitable trust to help pay hospital bills for young children, pay for patient flights to the Taj Mahal and to meet film celebrities and boost awareness of haemophilia.  She is a delight to watch.

The story requires you to take a leap of faith, but if you are willing, either film will make you laugh and perhaps cry.  It might also remind you of some older person who meant a lot to you.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Article 15

Ayushmann Khurrana has always added to the value of any of his movies I have watched.  One element is a cheerful outlook and comic timing.  In Article 15 he puts forth a different demeanor.  He is in  a position of authority, even privileged and assumes an air of confidence.  He also explodes with expletives (more on that later).

The focus of the movie is discrimination against Dalits, formerly known as Untouchables.  For me there were new details on the caste system.  Article 15 of the Indian constitution makes discrimination based on race, religion, caste, sex and place of birth illegal.  The law can only force so much compliance and attitudes will always influence outcomes.

There is a bit of a mystery, but really the audience has a pretty good idea of the guilt and the real heart of the story is a conspiracy to shut down an investigation.  Ironically some Dalits have achieved higher status (perhaps as tokens) including one of the police officers (who is part of the conspiracy).  There are political efforts paralleling the investigation that focuses on a political alliance between the Brahmins and the Dalits.  Ayushmann says that India consists of 30% elite castes being supported by 70% of lower castes.  During a few setups us outsiders realized that there are many gradations of caste hierarchy that allow even low castes to feel superior to those even lower.

The movie ends strangely when Ayushmann gathers a bunch of his crew around to celebrate the success of the investigation and served out some food.  The men and women were of different castes, but the key was when the cook was asked her caste and the answer was obliterated with a horn blast. after which there was laughter.

Regarding the expletive, it is the English form of the F word.   When first uttered in a fit of disgust one staff when asked by a naive non English staff what it meant he was told "get out" which in effect it did.  However when uttered under different circumstances (more annoyance than disgust) the same non English speaker started to leave .  The original explainer retrieved the man who thought he had been commanded to leave.  My understanding of Hindi is confined to about four words and I have often wondered when the subtitles offer an euphemism if they were hiding the F word and on the other hand when the F word or its many variations have made it to the subtitle if it was actually not as strong a word in Hindi.  

Director,/writer/produceer Anubhav Sinha is known for his interest in social issues.  In his previous movie, "Mulk" the focus was on discrimination against Muslims.  Several IMDB reviewers commented on negative political trolls for this movie.  Prior to this some of his film credits included "Ra.One," "Gulab Gang" and Tum Bin...Love will Find a Way."

 Mangesh Dhakde handled the music.  He had grown up with a father who operated a music school and at an early age met many musicians and was familiar with jazz, Western and Indian classical as well as Brazilian.  Prior to this movie Mangesh did the music for "Mulk."

Ewan Mulligan, the cinematographer got his career started in England where he did a number of shorts with the occasional movie and tv series.  He has been involved with a number of Bollywood movies and made contact with Abunhav Sinha and worked on "Tum Bin 2" and "Mulk"

Yasha Ramchamdai, the editor got started with shorts and location editorial jobs.    As an editor he as mostly involved with tv series..

Ayushmann Khurrana seems to select good movies.  See http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/ayushmann-khuranna-actor-to-watch.html  This movie represents 3 big hits in a row from "Andhadhum" (one of my top 3 for 2018), "Badhaai Ha" and now "Article 15."He now notices he has less time with his family and with 4 more films to be released over the next year there will be no relief.

Ayushmann was ably supported by Manoj Pahwa, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Sayani Gupta (enjoyed her in" Margarita with a Straw"), Kumud Mishra and Isha Talwar among others.

This has proved to be a very relevant movie.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A masterpiece film and a very good remake.


Bollywood churns out a lot of movies, some of which are very enjoyable.  "Badla" got really good reviews and lived up to them.  I learned that it was a remake of a Spanish movie,"The Invisible Guest" ("Contratiemp") and as usual many claimed the original was the better. Learning it was also available on Netflix a viewing confirmed it was well worth watching and instructive.

Both versions are full of twists, some of which you will not guess.  Both are professionally done.  "The Invisible Guest" was released in 2016, while "Badla" came out in 2019.

A few differences:  One is set in Glasgow and the Scottish countryside while the other is set in the Catalonia region of Spain.  There is a gender switch with "Badla" having a female accused murderer while the original was male.  The lawyer preparation expert  for "Badla" is a male while "the Invisible Guest" has a female actress.

Both movies use a prosthetic devise to entrap a murderer.  The lawyer in both cases is able to cut down on lies and force the accused to be more truthful.  They assure the accused that they can work better with the truth, even when it seems incriminating. 
 
Oriol Paulo is credited as a writer for both movies.  Born in Barcelona (in Catalonia) he has been involved in short films and tv series.  His breakthrough came with "Julia's Eyes" as a co-writer.  Produced by Guillermo del Toro who later also produced "The Invisible Guest."  Oriol has also directed a number of movies including "The Invisible Guest." Another of his movies is being remade in Bollywood, "The Body."

Sujoy Ghosh adapted the script and also directed and produced.  He is most famous for directing, writing and producing "Kahanni" which is at the top of my list for twist endings.  His next project is a tv series, "Suspect X" based on my favorite mystery book, written by Japanese author, Keigo Higashino.

Music for "The Invisible Guest" was by Fernando Valazquez.  I should have recognized his name as I had bought a clip from "A Monster Calls" and had seen "The Impossible" both English films.

The Hindi version has three responsible for the music with a notable absence of the normal Bollywood song and dance routines. Amal Mallik and Anumpam Royl shared composing and playback singing.  Clinton Cerejo was a score producer and playback singer.  All three have backgrounds in composing and playback singing.

Cinematography was sited as a strength for "The Invisible Guest"  Xavi Gimenez also did "The Liberator," "Agora" and "Transsiberian."  He has won 10 awards for his work.   On one occasion when forbidden to use a helicopter for a shot he developed  a remote controlled mini helicopter. 

Cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay was revealing to research as I encountered a few of his interviews.  He started in Kalkutta where lighting equipment was not as available as in Mumbai so he was forced to innovate.  He began with commercials and to date has done over 1,500 and was lured into films by Riturno Ghosh.  Filmed over 25 Bengali films mostly indoors as Riturno thought people more interesting than outdoors.  Avik learned to use lighting to be effective in confined spaces.  His first Bollywood film was "Bunty and Bablij" that had decided to film on location.  They had been warned that Amitabh Bachchan  (see link below) would draw too many people to a railway station and in fact over 50,000 people showed up and the train schedule had to be dropped.  The madness of the crowd was conveyed to the film.  Other notable films for Avik included "Pink" (http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/11/pink-sensitive-film-to-deal-with-consent.html ), "October," and "The Violin Player."

Jaume Marti has edited "A Monster Calls" where he was also the production manager.  He had edited a number of films including "Transsiberian."  He was the production for "The Impossible"  He was brought in as an additional editor for "Jurassic World:  Fallen Kingdom."

Monisha R Baldawa has edited "Neerja," "Begum Jaan" and "Margarita with a Straw." 

Ana Wagener played the lawyer in "The invisible Guest."  She won a supporting role award in "Biutiful." An earlier movie I watched was "Dark Blue Almost Black."  She was the Spanish voice for Felcity Huffman with "Desperate Housewives."

Amitabh Bachchan (http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/05/amitabh-bachchan-living-legend.html) in a gender switch played the lawyer specializing in preparing witnesses in "Badla.".  A versatile actor he has the role of preparing the accused.  If you check out the link you will see he has been not only the most popular actor in India, but also in Britain.  Along the way has won multiple awards.

Mario Casas played the accused who supposedly killed his lover in "The Invisible Guest."  Born in Barcelona he performed in videos at age 9 and at age 18 he moved to Madrid for roles in tv series and his family moved with him.  In 2014 he won award as the most searched {Spanish} performer.  Busy with a variety of tv series and movies including, the English language, "The 33."

Taapse Pannu is an upcoming actress who plays the accused in another gender switch.  She had shared screen presence with Amitabh in "Pink."  She started her career with Tamil and Telegu films including opposite Dhanush in "Aadulkalam."    Learned martial arts for some of her action films.

Barbara Lennie played the murder victim (shown frequently in flashbacks).  She was born in Spain, but moved to Argentina with her family at a young age and moved back to Spain in 1990.  Appeared in many Spanish movies including "The Skin I Live In" and "Everybody Knows" winning numerous national awards.

Tony Luke played the murder victim in "Badla" with another gender switch.  He started with Malayalam films making "Badla" his first Bollywood movie.  He is considered one of the top male models in India.

Jose Coronado plays the father of a second murder victim in "The Invisible Guest."   He is the winner of multiple national awards having started with films in 1987

Tanveer Ghani plays the father of a second murder victim in "Badla."  He was born in England and has mostly appeared in British films with one other Bollywood movie to his credit.

Amrita Singh plays the mother of a second murder victim in "The Invisible Guest."   She must be unique in having been the leading lady for Dharmendra and in later years played the leading lady for his son, Sonny Deol.  She had been married to Saif Ali Kahn although he was much younger.  They had two children who are now both in Bollywood movies.  A few years back she was in "2 States," one of my favorites.

Have I left someone out?  Maybe.  They are both movies that build tension and several times you feel you are onto something, but you aren't.  Most everyone will find the ending a big jolt--but poetic.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

CAPERNAUM: I didn't ask to be born

A lot of young people have complained they didn't ask to be born.  As a youngster their life is controlled by adults who do not always have their best interest in mind.

"Capernaum," was a winner at Cannes and different film festivals around the globe plus received an Oscar nomination for best foreign film.

Set in Lebanon.  A young boy has his handcuffs removed and requested to move closer to a judge  We soon learn the boy has been imprisoned for stabbing someone, but he is here with a lawyer because he is suing his parents. From this point we are taken by flashbacks to the events that led to this.

There is a lot of physical and verbal abuse from his parents who seem to have "lots" of other children mostly younger.  Zain is most attached to a young sister whose marriage is being arranged by his parents.  Soon after Zain runs away and before long comes to an arrangement with an illegal Ethiopian refugee.  She is a key supporting player and we learn there are others speaking Amharic (subtitled as Ethiopian).  Illegals are at a disadvantage and are exploited.

At some point after some serious problems Zain returns to his home in order to get "papers" so he can leave the country, but learns there are no papers as his parents were afraid to leave any traces.  He also learned that his beloved sister had been married and died as a result of being too young for sexual activity.  He grabs a knife and does stab the man who killed his sister and is sentenced to five years in prison after his parents testify against him.  Zain generates some publicity and is given support from a radio station allowing him to sue his parents.  I am reluctant to discuss the end result.

The film is a really good story and fortunately there was a creative and professional crew to tell it in the best way possible.

Nadine Labaki is the driving force behind this movie as director and writer.  Born in Lebanon, she directed short films starting in 2003 and 2007 was included in Variety's top ten directors to watch. First noticed her as lead actress in "Where do we go from here" that she also wrote, directed and produced.  She started as an actress and often takes a role, even in her own movie including "Capernaum." Fluent in Arabic, French and English she has been in a lead role in a French movie.  A big breakthrough was in "Caramel" that she acted in, directed and wrote.  She earned respect from the industry as had been asked to participate as a jury member at film festivals Venice and Cannes.

Co-writers Jihad Hojeily (also for three other Labadki scripts) , Michelle Keswarny (1st script) and Georges Khabbaz (his third script).  Georges had 9 credits as an actor including "Under the Bombs"

Khaled Mouzanar, the composer, married to Nadine had done music for a few of her films plus a few others.  For "Capernaum" he is listed as a writing collaborator and producer.

Michel Merkt, the producer has an international experience as producer, associate producer and executive producer.  His resume takes him to France, Germany, United States, Britain, India and Lithuania.  Includes such films as "Elle," "Toni Erdman," "Miles Ahead" and "Photograph."

Danny Glover, the famous actor from the "Lethal Weapon" series was listed as an executive producer and surprised to learn he had 47 credits as a producer.including for American, Bollywood, Thai, and now Lebanon films.  As a often time action star it was surprising to learn he comes from a civil rights background and has done humanitarian work.  At one time he was a Goodwill Ambassador working in Ethiopia.  He also had been a jury member at Cannes.

Christopher Aoun, the award winning cinematographer had done films in Germany as well and in India (Tamil),  He had done filming in the Mid-East. 

Two editors listed.  Konstantin Bock has done films in English and German..

Laure Gardette was the other editor.  She has done mostly French movies, including "In the House," "Potiche"  and "The New Girlfriend."    In 2007 she edited "Caramel." where she may have met Nadine Labaki.

Zain Ali Rafeea played the main character also named Zain and really stole the show.  He was discovered by the director, Nadine roaming the streets of Beirut as a Syrian refugee.  There are also references to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.  In the script Zain fantasizes about moving to Sweden, but in reality his family moved to Norway.

Yordonas Shiferaw played Rahil, a woman who for a time supported Zain and trusted him with her baby.   She spoke both Arabic and Amharic.  She made the trip to the Cannes Festival.

Elias Khoury who plays the judge was a writer who wrote a novel turned into "Bab el Shams," a well regarded film.

Most of the remaining actors were inexperienced before this film.

At one time children worked in mines, but eventually that ended.  Poverty and violent conflicts have caused child abuse. to this day. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Unions and their role

The decline of unions is a major factor in increasing inequality.  A union represents the worker to the employer.  Unions tend to get involved in the larger political process ideally representing the interests of their members, but some times the individual members have a different vision. Individuals do have power, but using their power collectively synergizes their efforts and frightens the owners of capital.

I grew up in a union town, Oshawa and later settled in another, Hamilton.  But my father in particular did not seem to like unions.  He was an independent trucker and was aware of hard tactics by the Teamsters.  My maternal grandmother was a great admirer of unions and I learned later that her husband, my grandfather Marshall Coakwell had taken part in a significant historical strike at General Motors.  From my father (and others) I heard stories of lazy protected workers and hard tactics of such groups as the Teamsters, but he also thought his father in law was a conciliator.

I had some union connections as I had worked for the Children's Aid Society and as a supply teacher for only about 3 days.  The Teacher's Union tracked me down more than 30 years later to give me my accumulated contributions with interest pension.  Most of my life I have been non union and never really felt hard done by.  On one job I actually received a call from a co-worker trying to form a union and turned it down as I felt I was in a semi management position.  The very next day I was forced out (I don't think the phone call was a factor) with a moderately generous settlement.  I did feel cheated as very misleading statistics (link)were used against me and I had felt my work was above and beyond.  read about my involvement in newspaper circulation: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/08/my-career-in-circulation-part-3-winding.html

I cringe when I hear of union corruption.  It justifies anti-union rhetoric from those representing the interests of the wealthy.  Unfortunately human nature lends itself to the adage "Power corrupts, Absolute power corrupts absolutely."  The problem includes all groups, union, political, NGOs, families and even social relationships.  Leadership requires followers and historically there have been natural restraints that have been diminished. see:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/07/selected.html

It seems on both sides of the border efforts have been made to weaken unions.  More success in the United States where right wing philosophy supported by large amounts of money legislated against them.  It is a critical factor explaining increasing inequality.  Corporations have consolidated their power at the expense of workers and with co-operation of voters.  Wages had stagnated while union membership has diminished.  Ronald Reagan was pleased to break up the Air Traffic Controllers union. and had a lot of efforts to boost inequality.

Divide and conquer was one strategy employed.  We were always told how lazy and overpaid union workers were with the implication it was at the expense of hard working non union members. Ironically it was the power of unions that kept wages and working conditions up for non union workers.  One of the best examples was provided in my adopted city of Hamilton where Stelco would go on long strikes that once settled almost immediately set the wages and benefits for their rival Dofasco who avoided the costs of strikes.

An argument is made that high wages, unreasonable benefits  and restrictive regulations are what has killed manufacturing in North America.  That certainly is a factor, but a few other factors should also be considered.  Cheap energy and international trade agreements allowed corporations to shift jobs to cheap labour and looser regulated countries.  Another factor is rapidly creeping up and that is automation supported by computerization.

German companies recognize there are other stakeholders than the owner.  Unions are encouraged and listened to.  Union managers hear and are heard.  The company benefits.  Peter Drucker made me aware of the concept of stakeholders.  Workers and their communities are often more committed than the owners who will pull up stakes if a better opportunity is perceived.

The world will have to make some adjustments to avoid increasing tensions towards more violence.  Inequality will not disappear ever and automation will increasingly take away the need for workers of all types.  We could easily evolve towards societies depicted in such books as "1984" or "The Time Machine" where basically a few elites control the masses.  That is a clear possibility

While a lot of attention is publicly given to corporations and investors and what it takes to motivate them, little attention is given to consumers, citizens and labourers.  We won't be needed to produce the goods and services to nearly the same extent as historically.  We will be wanted as consumers, but with fewer people controlling the distribution of goods the rules will be set by them.  Democracy seems to require a lot of money and so those with lots of money will control that as well.

At one time it was suggested that the poor would vote in the own self interest to the point of being counter- productive..  I can see that, but it is not working out that way.  Voters regularly vote against their own self-interest.  Social interests are manipulated by those with the power and who are more comfortable with the status quo.  Unfortunately many voters feel apathetic, i.e. their vote is not worth the effort. link to proportional voting

An alternative would be for the 99% to assert their rights.  Of course there are too many conflicts of interest to keep track of (unless you have lots of money for the task).  Education is basic to the idea and will be resisted by those in power.  I don't mean just job skill education which will be supported, but how to think critically, how to enjoy life and how they fit into the global reality.

Corporations are global.  Capital can shift to any corner of the globe that promises better returns with out concern for other stakeholders.  Unions need to match that power more closely or they will just be played off against one another.

The photo is of a Worker's Art and Heritage Centre in Hamilton, Ontario.

Friday, August 30, 2019

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE AMERICAN ELECTION

Although there is increasing acceptance of climate change, both major political parties seem reluctant to prioritize it.   Of course the Republicans are loaded with climate change deniers, but Democrats are reluctant to be too boisterous about the issue.

One candidate Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington state made it his priority and he was one of the first to drop out.   He did make a point and campaigned for a debate exclusively on climate change, but would not have qualified for it.  His efforts have encouraged other candidates to offer plans for combating climate change.  Perhaps if the Democrats win there will be a national role for him.

A suggestion to have a a debate devoted entirely to climate change was voted down by the Democrats who were forced to accept a sequential town hall discussions with one candidate at a time.  Part of the reason might be not to offend potential donors.  Another part might be to not offend some voters.

The Republicans are indebted to the fossil fuel industry.  Trump at least once admitted that the economic consequences were on his mind and warned voters of the danger.  Of course the economic consequences of not dealing with the challenge are even greater.  Innovative energy solutions are disruptive to the fossil fuel industries, see:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/03/the-innovators-dilemma.html

The role of money, not only regarding climate change, but of many issues (gun control, healthcare, education, prisons) is overwhelming the concept of democracy.  Al Gore pointed out that America has to fix democracy before they can fix the climate crisis.    See:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/11/an-inconvenient-sequel-truth-to-power.html

The Republicans are trying to make immigration the key issue as well as touting economic growth.  Racial innuendo is prevalent and has worked in previous elections. 

Fear works.  Voters are reluctant to take risks.  Fear mongering is dangerous.  Educated voters are aware of climate change and find scientists more credible than politicians with vested interests.   On the other hand many voters feel a vested interest themselves or fear life style changes or are wrapped up with other issues (abortion, immigration, gun rights, gay rights) or don't yet take it seriously.

This election cycle is already ahead of previous elections in covering climate change.  It seems not only to be the most serious issue confronting mankind, but also a key to a Democratic victory.  The Republicans are ridiculing aspects of it mostly centering on costs and inconveniences.  Short term thinking appeals to all of us to some extent, but mankind reached our present status with long range thinking.

In a previous election the Democrats had given out tire gauges to remind people they could improve gas mileage by inflating tires to optimal level and were ridiculed.   With plastic straws attracting negative attention from environmentalists, the Trump team sold them as the idea of not allowing "liberals" to change their life style.  Another remembered example was protesting new more efficient light bulbs.  The Democrats need to turn the Republican strategies on their head.  Ridicule can work both ways.

When fear is activated people are willing to change their life style.  The solutions to climate change are pictured as job threatening not only to the fossil fuel corporations, but also to auto industry, airlines, mining, agriculture, etc.  The truth is renewal energy will require lots of jobs.  More important in the long term is a healthier, safer environment.

There are other issues that voters should factor in.  Andrew Yang has pointed out that immigrants are not the threat to jobs that robots are, see:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/08/rise-of-robots.html  Education, health, nuclear proliferation, inequality and even immigration.

Naomi Klein has some points about how different groups can co-ordinate better for mutual aims.  She also feels like Al Gore that democracy needs to be addressed, but feels it can and should be tackled simultaneously.  It will take a unified effort.
http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/05/naomi-klein-writes-another-insightful.html

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

UYARE, AN UNEXPECTED GEM

If it wasn't for Netflix I would never have been aware of the existence of "Uyare"  I revisited the original  trailer to see if I recalled it correctly.  There definitely was an element that motivated me to see it--a high rating, but the subject of a woman in India piloting an airplane seemed unusual enough to want to know more.  I anticipated there would be obstacles and the trailer hinted at an unhappy romance.  If you looked very closely (less than 1 second screen time) you might have been prepared for the mid film surprise that formed the main dramatic tension.  So I will try to respect the intention of the marketing people so you can be jolted like I was and perhaps appreciate the movie better.

The rating --at the time 8.2 is an indication of a superior movie, but the trailer underplayed the drama.  There is not much romance, but there is tension.  The professional quality raises it above what an outsider might anticipate in a regional Indian language, Malayalam.

Palavi, as a young girl is fascinated with flying and tells her father she wants to be a pilot and after awhile he takes her seriously and supports her.  As a young adult she earns her pilot license.

The only real romance in the film is a dud almost from the beginning as the heroine has loyalty to a chauvinistic man with problems.  Eventually she gets tired of his demands and verbally breaks off the relationship, but he is bitter and takes revenge in a violent way.  For the rest of the movie he occasionally re appears, not to ask for forgiveness, but to make her life more aggravating.

How she deals with a disfigurement is the crux of the story.  At first she is discouraged and her license is revoked.  Her friends are supportive, but only through some flukey circumstances she gets a breakthrough chance to be a airline hostess and you might guess later she gets to rescue a airplane headed for disaster.  The story is more than that.  There seems to be a chance at a romance, but she squashes it.  What keeps her going is the support of friends and especially one man, who strongly criticized defies his father and others.

What sustains your attention is the lead actress, Parvathy Thiruvothu.   Before getting into films she had been popular as a tv anchor for a phone in program. Appeared mostly in films in the Malayalam language, but has appeared opposite Dhanush in a Tamil film and opposite, Irrtan Khan in a Hindi film,  "Qarib Qarib Singile"  She has been a big winner in regional awards.  In an IMDB feature asking what her favorite films she listed two of mine-- "A Separation" and "The Secret in their Eyes" specifically the Argentine version.  But she especially likes any film with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Her key supporter is played by Tuvino Thomas educated as a software engineer.  He was born a Syrian Catholic.  Also a regional award winner who is popular and busy, but mostly in Malayalam films.  He plays a sort of irresponsible son of a wealthy man who wants to prove himself and does take a dicey risk.

Asif Ali plays the boyfriend who you quickly come to dislike.  Generally he plays more likeable characters, but does well in this role.  He has produced two movies.

Siddique plays her father.  His career started in 1985 and he has appeared in at least two noteworthy films.  The original version of "Drishyam" (I blogged the Bollywood copy: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/11/driishyam-bollywood-remake-masterpiece.html    ) and was the lead in "Naa Bansaare Talli" a film about sex trafficking with a twist highlighted in my year end movie review for 2018.  He also has produced two movies.

Manu Ashokan, the director with his first feature.  He had been an associate director for the Bollywood version of "Traffic"

Bobby and Sanjay were a writing team as part of team involving the director and editor they brought everything together.   The climax of the movie is started in the opening scenes, but without the necessary context that comes in dribs and drabs over the course of the film.  Soon you are introduced to the heroine as a young girl and quickly she grows up to a college student and some of her conflict with her boyfriend.

Editing keeps the story flowing under the guidance of Manesh Narayan.  Manesh started with Malayalam films, winning an award with his first.  He has done significant films in Tamil, Telegu and Hindi languages.  In 2017 he directed and co-wrote, "Take-off" that won awards for himself and the film.

Music by Gopi Sundar.  Music in the background is enjoyable.  Shakthisree Gopalan was a factor in my decision to watch this movie and she sings one song.

Cinematography was handled by Mukesh Muraleedharan.  This was his third film in charge after years of various tasks in the camera department.

It was released in India in April of this year and was listed on Netflix in August.  I am sure it will e nominated for awards.

If you fear watching a movie in a language you might not have heard of please be assured with subtitles you will soon be gripped.  It is very professional. A post on regional films from India:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/01/regional-films-from-india.html

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Jared Diamond examines national crises--worth reading

Personal crises offer a key to understanding national crises.  There are important similarities and critical differences.  I found "Upheavel" to be the most rewarding read so far this year.

Jared identifies six countries that he has spent time in and that offered an historical crisis that allowed for useful analysis. 

"Findlandization" has been something derogatory but the author feels that it has been taken out of context.  Although they made many concessions to the Russians, they were able to maintain a liberal democracy and industrialize themselves effectively. 

Chile suffered a bloody coup in 1979 with some support from the United States.   I remember a very interesting movie "No" that explained the advertising campaign.  The initial problem was that 17 groups all wanted access to limited tv airtime.  An advertising executive (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) was able to present a unified message that worked to avoid a constitutional amendment that would have extended Pinochet's dictatorship.  One victim of the coup made his way to a newspaper I worked for, the Oakville Journal Record.  In Chile Alan Lathrop had been a reporter who once interviewed Charles De Gaulle.  He became the advertising manager and a friend of my boss. 

Indonesia  was the newest nation in the study and as a group of widespread islands with many languages did not initially have a national feeling, but has developed one since.  Jared recounts an early dictatorship and some mass killings.  I am reminded of another movie  "The Look of Silence" (2014) was a multi national effort regarding the genocide in the 1960's. This film would not be possible without careful political manoeuvring, luck and courage.  Originally  the director Joshua Oppenheimer, set out to talk with victims of the genocide, but circumstances encouraged them to talk to perpetrators.  Surprisingly they boasted of their deeds in front of their own relatives.  Adi Rukan a brother of one of the victims actually confronted many of the perpetrators.  Horrifying tales of killing "Communists" mutilating and drinking of blood.  Told very matter of factly.  The protagonist was an optometrist and actually tested some of the perpetrators and provided glasses.  Many of the perpetrators and their families either justified what was done or avoided responsibility with some boasting on camera.

Australia was originally colonized by convicts, then British citizens were allowed in and an effort to keep it for British only.  Next they allowed in northern Europeans.  World War II helped them to start realizing they could not depend on mother Britain to prosper.  When the United Kingdom joined Europe in the formation of the European Common Market they were forced to give up Commonwealth trade arrangements.  At this point they began to realize their future was going to be tied more to Asia and the United States.  The author had visited when restaurants were bland with a few exceptions, but years later after immigration opened up a wider variety of cuisine.  Immigration from Asia and trade has increased to raise the standard of living for all Australians.

Jared analyzes Japan in two parts.  The first was after western traders forced themselves on Japan and it was realized they were powerless to stop the cultural invasion.  They decided to strengthen themselves by learning more of modern western technology by visiting Europe and America and accepting visitors.  Eventually they acquired enough power to defeat European powers in the early twentieth century.

They then became arrogant and thought they could take on the American military.  This ended in an humiliating catastrophe.  They were industrious and within a few decades were the second strongest economy in the world.  They are at a crossroads now.  The government carries an enormous debt, although most of it is to their own citizens and corporations.  They still are resented by China and South Korea due mainly to war time atrocities.  Jared contrast the Japanese response to their wartime defeat with Germany.  Germany has been more open and accepting responsibility to their own citizens.  Furthermore Jared cites a sincere apology from Willy Brandt who fell on his knees in contrition at what Germany had done in the war.  Japan has not done anything comparable.

Another contrast between Germany and Japan deals with their attitudes towards immigration.  Germany has accepted immigrants over the years, partly to maintain a vibrant work force.  During the recent Syrian crisis they accepted more refugees than any other country.  They are sure to have problems, but on the whole it will be good for Germany both economically and culturally.  Japan has always tried to maintain their racial purity and even today are reluctant to open up the gates.  It has been pointed out to me that Japan has opted for more reliance on robots to replace retired workers--a key factor behind my investment in Honda  contrast with Germany

United States has benefited from many advantages.  It has an inland water network that allows for cheap transportation and two coasts (actually 3 like Canada) that had protected them from invasion.
Immigration has enriched them economically and culturally.  Democracy has worked well for them, although decisions are slower, they tend to make better ones over time.

The Americans are also at a crisis point and many factors that could undermine them.  Number one is a diminishing willingness to compromise.  Politically many developments have led to polarization.  The expense of campaigns have forced politicians to spend more time fund raising than discussing issues with opponents while modern air travel has meant that many of their families stay back home with less social interchange with other congressional families.   Polarization extends to the general population that can now watch tv channels that reinforce their views.  Residential pattern and even martial choices are heavily influence by political affiliations.

Another factor is low voter turnover.  United States unlike other countries requires voters to be registered and opened opportunities to suppress undesired voters.  A large turnout gives greater credibility to the government.
 
The American government has less investment in education and infrastructure than other industrialized countries where teachers have higher standards, but also more pay and prestige.   Immigration has been a key strength of U.S. and is needed more than ever to maintain population and economic growth.  Immigration is a positive for such things as childcare and scientific innovation.

America has become arrogant disdaining the idea that they could learn from other nations.   The author surprised me by stating that America could learn lots from Canada and then Europe and then the rest of the world.  Under Donald Trump America has been disengaging from multi lateral organizations that in truth need to be strengthened for current and future crises.

In short, "...fundamental problems are polarization, voter turnout and obstacles to voter registration, inequality and declining social mobility and declining government investment and public goods."
 
Crises for the whole world.  One that the author worries most about is the danger of a nuclear conflict.  Jared itemizes four ways it could happen and that even with the Cold War over the danger is greater than ever.  With Trump backing out of existing agreements the dangers have increased further since this book's 2019 publication.  

Climate change is real.  Jared points out that all energy sources have disadvantages, but that global powers need to start moving away from fossil fuels.  He does make a case for nuclear power by accepting risks.  The real force needed is conservation pointing to Europe's attitude towards gas guzzling vehicles.  Cars and gas are taxed to discourage wasted fuels.

Another global crisis is the inevitable depletion of natural resources.  Some are finite while others such as forestry and fish are renewable, but poorly managed.  Although overpopulation is a factor, a bigger factor is that the well off countries consume about 32 times as much resources as the poor nations.  To compound the situation third world people are increasingly aware of the inequities.  Westerners sometimes picture the poor as a big "problem" instead of admitting the rich are the ones who created the problem. 

Government is disparaged by many who think they are corrupt or incompetent and should not be able to dictate our lives.  Jared points out that governments have been in existence for over 5,000 and were formed for two purposes:  1). to monopolize force to maintain peace and 2) to redistribute wealth for greater aims which could be to enrich the rich or for the greater good o society.  We need to keep those purposes in mind on a global framework.

Jared took 6 years for this book, but realizes the case studies are selective and not random.  He would like to see his studies expanded as we all need to better understand how crises can be better handled.  The book contains lots of easy to understand analysis with interesting personal observations.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Flight Shaming is a Modern Guilt Trip

As a private consumer the climate crisis makes me feel almost helpless.  Us Canadians are a privileged part of humanity that can preach to others to curb their desires to help fight the biggest battle of history.  I am not so pure--I drive an older car, eat meat, go through packaged goods and have an appetite for traveling. 

Many political entities are making efforts, but still the biggest one, the U.S. Government is dragging and even pointing out that too many of their competitors are taking advantage of them.  Corporate interests, particularly those associated with fossil fuels are fighting effectively against the tide.

Will greed do us in?  As individuals we are part of the problem and part of the solution, but relatively powerless against vested interests.  We drive gas driven cars because we have limited resources and advertising has convinced us they will fit in with our needs.  We eat meat, because it tastes good and we understand it is the best source of protein.  Packaged goods are practical and necessary.  There is a corporate structure that we fit into which hates disruptive change.

Innovations have always threatened and been resisted by the establishment.   In the past it has often resulted in one set of jobs being replaced by another set of jobs and the economy makes some adjustments.  Most of the suggested solutions for fight the climate crisis involve conflict with vested interests including our own.  Read more about innovative disruption:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/03/the-innovators-dilemma.html

The environmental movement, necessary as it is has taken on elements of religion.  One critical element is the idea of sinning by not changing your life in enough details for future mankind to survive.  We have saintly leaders--one I recall is Al Gore, often criticized as a hypocrite, but a newer one has emerged to capture our admiration.  Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old from Sweden has thrust herself into the battle and has spoken eloquently to shame much of the older establishment.  I wish her luck and hope that indeed more of us are shamed into being more active.  When asked if she would like to meet Donald Trump she replied it would be a "waste of time."

Her latest effort has shifted the focus a little to the perils of air travel.  Instead of flying to New York for an United Nations environmental conference she will be sailing relying on solar energy.  She realizes that she is privileged to have this option and that in fact it is not totally zero emissions free.  Its main purpose is to set an example and perhaps to shame the rest of us (who can afford it) to reduce unnecessary carbon emissions.

The problem is really two fold.  We as individuals need to do our part by setting an example and spreading the word.  But the bigger task falls to governments and corporations that have immense control over our lives.  Auto emission standards have been a political issue and efforts have been made to encourage electric vehicles.  There have been powerful resistance to these simple incremental improvements.  Technology has developed a lot of innovations that could dramatically help reduce carbon emissions as well as other global warming agents, but in many cases they are up against entrenched interests.

As individuals we have two tasks.  The first might be to temper our greed.  The second set in motion by our collective examples would be to prod the governments and big corporations to join the battle more seriously.  The governments make decisions based on anticipated votes, but also on donations often by those who want to influence policies.  A vote can be powerful, but is limited in many ways (expense of elections, first past the post, gerrymandering, etc) and needs to be strengthened--Al Gore pointed out that we need to fix democracy first .  read more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/11/an-inconvenient-sequel-truth-to-power.html

Greta pointed out that it is not just climate change but a "climate crisis," that is gradually becoming part of everyday conversation.  It needs to be more as not only do corporations fear innovative disruption so do most citizens around the globe.

An earlier blog from 2011 gives a little different perspective.  The author, Paul Gilding of "The Great Disruption" had been discouraged by the lack of response for more involvement.  He uses the example of World War II, but also suggests the more work done beforehand the greater chance of success.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/07/great-disruption-is-it-really-on.html

Still another strategy coming from "The Wisest One in The Room" focuses on incremental steps and suggests that mitigating efforts are not wasteful, but after getting one's foot in the door can lead to more serious results.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/10/the-wisest-one-in-room.html

Lots of ideas and strategies for us to push buttons individually and collectively.  The basic concern of this blog started out with flight shaming and I am still wrestling with it.  Over my 71 years my flights probably averaged less than one a year, but that average has crept up over the last two decades. Two things:  I will have to be selective and somehow push for more environmentally transportation choices.

This follows a radio discussion on CBC led by Matt Galloway.