Monday, November 29, 2021

DISLOYAL: The Michael Cohen Version

 Do you believe him?  He tells a compelling story that seems to make sense.  BUT he is an admitted and convicted liar.  He also wants revenge.   He sounds very repentant, but also offers explanations.  He knew all along that Trump was a huge liar and racist, but he admired his audacity, charisma and ruthless ability to get things done.  His role was to interpret Trump's meaning with his indirect commands (to avoid incriminating himself) and do whatever necessary to fulfill a task.

Perhaps the bigger question is how did such a man as Trump win the American election, even he didn't think he would win?  Michael certainly played a critical role and was witness to many events that made it possible.

From what I read, his story fits well with other information.  It seems certain that  the information is selective.  He does explain his motives in a believable manner.  As with many other authors with inside information there was an attempt to block publication, but Cohen is a lawyer.

Do not criticize Trump's hair or his wealth.  He wants you to believe that women are attracted to him and he takes advantage of that.

His appeal to evangelicals is mystifying.  It makes no sense they would support an adulterer and a man so transparently dishonest.  Of course abortion was a big concern as was the gay culture and if truth be told civil rights.  There is a hard core of believers who anticipate the Apocalypse and their ascension to heaven provided Israel is controlled by Jews.

Michael Cohen suggests a more sinister factor.  Years before when Trump identified evangelicals as a critical factor and had a meeting with them it led to a friendship between Cohen and Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife.  That friendship started innocently enough when Cohen learned their daughter was a Justin Bieber fan and he was able to procure VIP seats for a Bieber concert.  A few years later they felt they could trust Cohen with a more delicate task, extricating them from an extortion attempt based on some semi nude photos.  Cohen was able by intimidation to resolve this situation.

Michael claims to have done too many favors to recount in this book.  One example was to force schools Trump had attended to not release his records.  He recounts an ironic negotiation with Trump regarding the Stormy Davis extortion attempt.  Trump wanted to deny the relationship, but the election was only a short time away and Cohen responded with "Just because something isn't true doesn't mean it can't hurt you."  Fits well with Trump's philosophy who loved making false accusations.

Michael credits himself with encouraging a presidential campaign.  Manipulating polls, suppressing information, doing favors were some of his roles. After Trump purchased the Doral Golf course he got involved with a dispute with a paint contractor and Benjamin Moore.  Trump specified a low grade quality paint, but when it deteriorated demanded it be done over refusing to pay for it, getting Michael to negotiate.  

He was also very involved with suppressing information about another of Trump's sex scandals.  Not only to keep them out of public view, but also to help placate Melania.

Many factors helped Trump to win.  The James Comey announcements just ahead of the election.  Cohen credits the enormous amount of free press given to Trump.  Usually the result of outrageous tweets and other statements.  Trump was a master of using the press.  He used his connections to plant false stories about his primary rivals with perhaps the most effective one accusing Ted Cruz's father of being involved with the Kennedy assassination.  An incomplete summary of the enablers:

As I recall a cartoonist suggested that it wasn't Trump's character that attracted favorable attention, but that he hated the same people that they hated.  He was pretty blatant stoking racist sentiments of large segments of Americans (deplorables if you will).  Others liked his tax and deregulation ideas.  

Russia  did play a role, but Cohen thinks it was not a carefully thought out plan from Trump's perspective.  Putin hated Hillary Clinton for her criticisms of the Russian 2011 election.  Trump admired Putin for his autocratic ways that enabled him to be one of the very richest men in the world.  Paul Manafort, fresh from dirty deeds on behalf of Russia, in Ukraine, undoubtedly made connections more feasible and we know Donald Trump Jr. eagerly hoped the Russians could give dirt on Hillary, but claims they didn't.  

After all that, it seems another perspective on the Russian influence is worth reading:

Interviewed by Chuck Todd, November 28th, 2021 Cohen characterized Trump as "Grifting off Americans."  He also felt that Trump would delay announcing a presidential candidacy for 2024 to the last minute and then decline because he fears humiliation, but in the meantime sees an opportunity for grifting.  He feels there is enough documentation to indict Trump right now. 

Trump is still a celebrity, but underneath he is a con man with little respect for Americans.  Many books and articles have chronicled his many mistakes and deceptions.  Like many others I have been discouraged by how his many victims actually worship him.  As a Canadian I see Trump as a blot on America and can only hope that enough Americans, especially those in authority do something so that America can move forward.

Just a reminder of some of the damage we will be a long time fixing:

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Robson Green

If you don't watch PBS or have lived in the United Kingdom you probably never heard of Robson Green.  That is a pity and good reason to check out PBS who offer lots of high quality entertainment. 

He was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne and has remained a loyal football fan for the local team.  He was an apprentice draughtsman for Swan Hunter Shipyard for 4 1/2 years, quitting in 1986.  In his career he was in bands that made the hit charts.  With Jerome Flynn  he sang "Unchained Melody" which sold 1.89 million copies in the United Kingdom.  He met his second wife, Valerie who worked for the record producer, Simon Cowell.  Robson and Jerome had two other #1 hits. 

His film career has been entirely with television, mini series, but also made for tv movies. turning down non television parts offered by the British and American productions.  Because of his commitment to British television, not all his films were accessible, however between PBS and the local library I saw enough to be fascinated.

Reckless (1997) was the first of his films to be shown in America.  Not the first for me, but revealed a different character.  Cocky and confident, after all, he seduced his doctor boss's wife. My first view of Michael Kitchen who later became the lead for "Foyle'sWar" (2002-2015) series.


Reckless, the Sequel (1998) with a film series started in between.  Again Robson battles against Michael Kitchen who wants his wife back.  Michal Kitchen is another favorite from watching "Foyle's War."

Touching Evil,  (1997- 1999) one of the early ones for me, but only saw several episodes , but not the whole series.  He played a policeman who very often bent the rules.  Nicola Walker played the role of a restrainer and have learned to to appreciate her over several roles


Me & Mrs. Jones (2002) A few years older and more mature from the two Reckless movies he more  mature liasoning with the Prime Minister.   He sang the title song during credits.




Rocket Man (2005) sounded very interesting with a man trying to develop a home rocket to put his wife's ashes into outer space.  Saw on a snippet of two episodes.

 Christmas Lights (2004) supposed to be a one shot deal but was so popular extended to a another two series and a movie.  Robson played close friends with a brother in law Mark Benton.  Robson was the smart, more irresponsible, partner while Mark played the more serious.  Married to sisters they did lots as a foursome 

Northern Lights-- (2006) the two carry on

City Lights  (2007) fighting, jealousy, adultery, lots of human foibles   although humorous more dramatic.   The two men were witness to a murder and ended up in witness protection program which led to drama.  As part of the protection program it was learned the Robson character had lied to his wife about a previous marriage and this led to tension.  More seriously his friend's wife could not handle being cooped up , made a brief escape that led to a confession she didn't love her husband.  A daughter was very upset about being separated from her boyfriend.   One scene is memorable with Robson doing a male striptease for his wife, but was interrupted by their young son

Clash of the Santas (2008)  The weakest of the series.  Although the two main characters supported each other there was definitely jealousy as the Mark character, newly divorced is chosen to play Santa Claus in an international competition while Robson is reduced to being an elf.

Robson co-founded Coastal Productions with Sandra Jobling who was an executive producer for many of the films    "Wire in the Blood" (2002-2009) was filmed in Newcastle, Northumberland.   It was gory and deals with serial killers often with sexual elements.  The Robson character sees the killers as victims and talks to himself a lot when trying to unravel complicated crimes "To catch a killer you must think like one" is a phrase to promote the series.   To get inside the head of a killer Tony takes everything he knows about a killer and projects the decision making process.  Eventually he can anticipate actions of the killer and intercede.   He is disliked by many, some because he proves them wrong, others because he talks out loud putting himself into the mindset of a killer/rapist.  The two main female leads are fascinated by him, after initially being disgusted, but except for children he is very poor at most human relations.

Grantchester  (2014-2021) sees Robson as a cop working with a clergy.  Robson played the cop while James Norton and Tom Brittney took turns as the clergy.  It sounds strange, but the hard nosed cop and the educated clergy toss ideas back and forth and nail the culprit.  Aside from one episode murder mysteries the show delved into some social concerns such as racism and homophobia.  Robson plays his age and is often cranky, but still helps solve the mystery.  The last episode of the sixth season shows a very different Robson as a broken man with guilty feelings and with a very upset wife.

Robson helped open up the door for a lot of the British television.  British television is different that American with less emphasis on sensationalism and I   am grateful.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Premonition is more relevant than you might think

When it was announced Michael Lewis had a new book out, many of us were quite excited, but when we learned the topic was pandemics we felt it was premature.  BUT don't ever underestimate Michael's ability to find different, but relevant angles to a topic that most others have overlooked.

As usual Michael seems to float around a wide range of perspectives.  A short blog can only hint at various attacks.  Other reviewers might choose a different set of tidbits, but the truth is the topic demands a book to truly understand.  Hopefully your appetite for comprehending the crisis and how we might tackle it better in the future will be whetted.  

 One different perspective came from 13 year old Laura Glass whose father was involved with disaster planning, but not including communicable diseases.  For a science contest in 2003 she developed a model dealing with contagious diseases.  She realized the key driver is social interaction and theoretically it is the young, more socially active people who should get vaccinations before their elders.  Of course we also realized that the elderly were the most vulnerable.

From the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic it was thought not much was learned, but re-examining information it was learned that cities that relaxed social distancing in response to business pressures suffered more than those cities that didn't.  It was important to intervene before the pathogen exploded.  The contrasting examples are Philadelphia and St. Louis.

In 2009 Obama was lucky when he accepted advice from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) which could have gone another way.  Some authorities think he should have shut down the schools, however as one expert pointed out if nothing happens, the drastic steps that made it possible are thought to have been unnecessary inconveniences and eventually forgotten.  More recently, analysis said a factor for the Republican victory in Virginia 2021 was that they had closed the schools more than other states and voters especially mothers were very upset over the inconvenience.  

 Religious restrictions hampered understanding of science.  One example was cutting out evolution from schools.  If youngsters cannot be taught to appreciate science they may grow up to be suspicious of expert opinions.

Standard doctor questioning is focused on an individual and is not adequate for learning the path of a communicable disease.

Charity Dean was a public health nurse in California who had strong feelings about pandemics, but had been squelched by her superiors.  Eventually she did rise to play a stronger role.  One of her ideas, "The one shot America had at behaving well and thus saving itself was to remove the feeling that "the government" was imposing restrictions on people and re-instill the idea that people were imposing order on themselves to fight a common enemy."   

Joe DiRisi developed a new chip while at University of California San Francisco that sped up virus testing.  Realizing the SARS virus originated with horseshoe bats, among many other projects he researched pythons and set up a genome bank to track viruses unique to them that might eventually transmit to humans.   Patricia Chan Zukerberg, wife of Mark Zukerberg and a trained pharmacist donated $600 to Joe's research team.

After Jimmy Carter, the CDC director position became a political appointee under Ronald Reagan.  The White House interfered with the CDC whenever it conflicted with the Republican base or their financial supporters.  One example was with AIDS and another was with aspirin research with children.  Politics continued to affect medical research.  When John Bolton picked by Trump to run Homeland Security he ended up firing many staff to focus more on outside forces.  A critical advisor, Tom Bossart was fired after he stated that it was not Ukraine that interfered in 2016 election.  Trump  broke up agencies that should have been able to deal with potential pandemics.  The Mexican border was a a big Trumpian obsession stirring up for public relations, but actually neglected during early stage of pandemic.

In late February 2020 the CDC announced that the disease was inevitably going to spread.  This caused an 1,100 drop in the stock market and upset Trump.  Vice President Pence ordered that no one in the Department of Health and Human Services was allowed to say anything that might alarm the public.  As we all know Trump claimed the pandemic was not a concern. 

Lewis's prior book was "The Fifth Risk".  Barrack Obama had put together a transition team to prepare the incoming Trump administration, but was ignored.  Positions were filled not with experts, but with political appointees.  Research was cut to make room for tax cuts.  Preparations for potential disasters were minimized or ignored.

The dilemma faced by public health officials is that an aggressive early response is required to deal with a pandemic, but if successful afterwards citizens remember only the restrictions.  Politicians fear the resentment voters express.

From the Acknowledgments Michael Lewis has established such a reputation that others suggest people he should talk to.  Some five years ago he was persuaded to talk to Joe DiRisi.  After that talk he looked for an excuse to write about him.  Shortly after Joe joined with others to encourage him to speak with Charity Dean.  To me, Michael is the one looking for the overlooked angles that are relevant. and behind the headlines. 

I was struck watching "Japan Sinks:  People of Hope" (2021) that with a shocking physical calamity one high ranking politician exclaimed how too many people did not realize that the economy is the base of the country.  It was more immediately obvious than with a pandemic as an earthquake crumbled a city and people had to scramble for safety.  Politicians supported by big business will always want to protect the financial interests at least as much as health concerns.

No matter the topic Michael Lewis is sure to open our eyes.  I highly recommend his books.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Dhamaka--is this what tv is coming to?

 It seems live tv. demands action and drama.  This is taken to an extreme with a new Bollywood film, "Dhamaka".   When something big happens we all want to see it happening.  However something "big" is not always happening.  And sometimes something "big" is an opportunity to  exploit to the fullest.  A charismatic spokeperson is critical.  A producer helps provide a backbone when necessary.

The lead male  Arjun Pathak has just been demoted from a major tv. anchor to a radio spot.  We learn of allegations of fraud and divorce proceedings and feel a little of his humiliation.

All through the film we learn of efforts to boost ratings.  A hot exclusive story is what drives the ratings.  What could be hotter than bombs going off and the demands of an aggrieved "terrorist"?  Well, the action piles up as the terrorist has planned a bombs in the tv. studio where our hero has been restored due to the request of the bomber.  The bomber is upset about previous government inaction that resulted in the deaths of fellow workers.  He demands an apology from a government official.  We are led to believe it will not come, but the anchor tries to force the issue by saying there will be an apology.  

Meanwhile the producer is making demands on the anchor. who is trying to negotiate a more permanent position.   She wants him to say there will be no negotiations and no apology.  She is following the ratings and is pleased they are going up.  But the terrorist is negotiating with another channel.  The other channel is trying to force the issue and making accusations.

He talks on air with his wife who has instituted divorce partly because he took credit for a big news story of hers and is stuck on the bombed bridge.  She makes the point that saying one is sorry does not make one smaller.  He says he agrees.  

The truth and the news are not necessarily the same.  Arjun established his reputation with the mantra, "Whatever I say will be the truth"

There are a few twists that only emphasize that news has become an entertrainment business rather than merely a source of true information.  We, the audience are the real drivers of what we see.  If we buy sensationalism at the expense of truth that is what we will get.  A lot of tension partly provided by explosions and police action, but more by the moral dilemma.

I don't know too much about the television competition between channels in India, but I suspect there must be a lot of manipulation behind the scenes in order to boost ratings.  The crew and cast that put this together are to be applauded. 

Perhaps inspired by a similar themed Korean film, "TheTerror Live" (2013).

Ram Madhvani was director and writer.  He is maybe best known for "Neerja" (2016), the biopic of Neerja Bhanot who sacrificed her life protecting 359 passengers from hi jackers back in 1986.  It became a the highest grossing film led by a female actress (Sonam Kapoor). He was also a playback singer on "Like Stars on Earth."   He and  his wife (?) Amita Madhvani also were producers.

"Puneet Sharma, the co-writer has a stronger reputation as a lyricist.  He had been noted for a poet for a protest.  He worked with a radio channel eventually in Mumbai and got involved with films. He wrote song lyrics for such films as "Bareilly Ki Barfi" (2017), and "Sanju" (2018).  He had written scripts for three previous movies.   

 Ron Screwvala was the other producer.  He has been involved producing such films as "Lakshya" (2004), "my favorite Shah Rukh Khan movie, "Swades" (2004), "Rang De Basanti" (2006), "The Namesake" (2006), "Life in a Metro" (2007), "Jodhaa Akbar" (2008), "Fashion" (2008), "No One Killed Jessica" (2011), "Barfi" (2012), "Kai Po Che" 2013), TIFF favorite, "The Lunchbox" (2013), "Uri:The Surgical Strike" (2019), my top movie of 2019, "The Sky is Pink" (2019).  These are all standout movie.  Here are two blogs: and

The musical director and composer was Vishal Khuranna.  His musical contributions have included "Haraamkhor" (2015)  "Neerja" (2016), "Jolly LLB 2" (2017). 

Cinematogrpahy was handled by Manu Anand.  Some of his films include "Dum Laga Ke Haisha" (2015 for he won a Filmfare award), "Fan" (2016) and "Zero" (2018).  A truly good feel movie:

 Monisha R. Baldawa was the editor.  Previous films include "Margarita with A Straw" (2014), "Neerja" (2016), "Mom" (2017). "Dhadak" (2018) and "Badla" (2019).

 Kartik Aaryan played  Arjun Pathak, the strong anchor.  He lied to his parents so he could get to Mumbai supposedly to study engineering, but instead went to countless film auditions without success until 2011 when he got his first film role.  His mother insisted he finish his engineering degree, but after doing so, in 2013 and more successfully in 2014 he appeared in more films.  After a bigger success in 2018, he invited his parents to live with him in Mumbai.  His films include "Pyaar Ka Punchnama" (2011), "Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2" (2015) and "Sonu Ke Titu Sweety" (2018).

Mrunal Thakur played Soumya Pathak, the wife of Arjun.  She has appeared in numerous films including "Super 30" (2019).

Amruta Subhash played Ankita Malaskar, the hard nosed producer.  Amruta has appeared in such films as "Firaaq" (2008), and "Gully Boy" (2019) .

I hope the efforts make us news consumers a little more careful in our assessments of what we are presented with and what we are paying for.

The movies I have seen are bolded with their first mention, partly for my vanity, but also to assure you familiarity with the cast or crew.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Jai Bhim

 Rating services are used to help us viewers decide where to spend our money or our time.  Some of us pride ourselves on ignoring them.  Well I am not one of them and am impressed with the very high ones although sometimes disappointed.  "Jai Bhim" (2021) has an IMDB rating higher than "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994) and I got my hopes up.  Good news, it deserves its rating and is available on Prime.  Last year my top film was also a Tamil one, "Peranbu"(2020):      

The adjective that most comes to mind is "powerful."  Throughout the film the main characters are referred to as tribal or Dalit (Untouchables). At first the script did resemble a folk tale, however it just set up the story.  Shocking to my western sensibilities was that they were shown hunting and preparing to eat rats.  Rasakunnu, a Dalit was called away from heavy labor to catch a snake that had intruded into an upper middle class home.  It was fascinating how he subdued the cobra like snake and when he prepared to release it he explained that they helped keep rats under control.  This experience was the basis for him later being accused of stealing jewelry.  The lady of the house couldn't find her jewelry and quickly the low caste snake catcher was the prime suspect.

He had left to do some work, but his wife and daughter were snatched in the middle of the night to be brutally questioned as to his whereabouts.  He was found and also brutally tortured and we later learned he never confessed.  Then I admit to some confusion as he disappeared from the story, but, we heard that he had escaped with two others and nobody could find him.  His pregnant wife with help from a village teacher sought help, but met rejections.  She finally found a crusading lawyer, Chandru (based on a real life character) who insisted she must tell him the truth.  The evidence as he first learned it was was very imposing with witnesses, and finger prints and more incriminating evidence would be brought forth.  What is discouraging is the legal establishment is very dismissive of his case.  Chandru had little regard for police and is able to disprove much.  However it turns out his client was caught in a lie and he is very fed up and plans to drop the case.  The teacher confesses it was her idea to with hold some evidence.  The lawyer follows up the new information with a long distance rail trip and it turns out to be a turning point.

There are no end of obstacles.  Corruption and brutality are big factors.  The police at one stage are concerned that their reputation is being sullied.  At one point the lawyer does work with a high police officer to show that many false confessions  are resulted from torture.  The torture is often to cover up corruption and pressure from higher ups.  India, like many other nations still suffers human injustices, but has come a long way. and this case would seem to have been a step in the right direction.  Check out an earlier blog on torture and its effects on the rest of us:

Of all the films I can recall this one has the most realistic dead body.  Dead bodies just generally lie there, with some sort of distortion, not breathing on camera, but pretty much like any other.  There was some sort of doubt whether this body was really dead.  Another body was revealed not to be dead by poring some chilies in his eyes.  However the second body which was shown closeup to the eye did not flinch.  I am sure it really wasn't chilies, but it was very realistic.

Another film from India about human rights was "Article 15" (2019).  Check

Films like this are not flukes.  Here are some short bits on some of the contributors.  Hopefully this will not be the only chance to view their work.

T. J. Gnanaval is the director and writer.  This is only his fourth script and his second directed film.

Jyothika, one of two producers, has a long career as an actress.   She started film acting in 1998, including  "Thambi" (2019) and "Ponmagal Vandhal" (2020) winning some national awards along the way.  "Jai Bhim" is her fourth as a producer.  Married to Suriya--see below.

Sean Roldan wrote the music.  He had developed a reputation for Carnatic music.  His birth name, Raghavendra Raj Rao comes from a family with a strong reputation with classical Indian music and wanted to break with the association.  In 2011 he picked Sean as a shortened version of Saniyam his maternal grandfather, a well known Tamil writer and grabbed Roldan from a Google search.   He started both playback singing and composing for films in 2014.  Much of the background music was performed by the Grand Philharmonic Orchestra in London.

Cinematography was handled by S. R. Kathir and was edited by Philoman Raj.

Suriya played the lawyer Chandru.  He made his first film, "Nerrukku Ner" (1997) produced by Mani Ratnam who gave him his stage name.  He started hits by 2002 and achieving national awards.  He was the original "Ghajini" (2005), a Tamil role later made famous by Bollywood star Aamir Khan.  He also starred in  "24"(2018) and " Soorarai Pottru" (2020) which was one of my top movies for last year.  He has produced 15 films to date with more scheduled.  He is married to Jyotika (see above) and they had been involved together with numerous films, including this one as Suriya joined his wife as producer.  Copying his father, he started the Agaram Foundation to provide funds for education in Tamil Nadu.  He has also helped the education of Sri Lankan Tamil students.  Another project of his is saving tigers.

Lijo Mol Jose played Senggeni, the wife of Raskannu.  This is her 10th movie having done movies in Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam.

Manikandan plays the unfortunate Raskannu, had done 9 previous films including "Vikram Vedha" (2017).  He also has written scripts including  "Vikram Vedha" and "Thambi" (2019).

Rajisha Vijayan played the teacher, Maithra who assisted Senggeni in her legal strategies.  She has mostly been in Maylayalam films including "June" (2019).

"Jai Bhim" was separately filmed in three languages.  Understand often the same scene is re shot in a different language.  In some cases different actors might be used.  I watched the Tamil version.

If you are too westernized you might find parts a bit too folksy and others may find it too long.  However if you like movies to make a point it really is a very powerful.

As usual I like to bolden first mention of movies I have seen.  Partly vanity, but also to assure you a familiarity with the cast and crew.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021


 An unusual movie that it deals with difficulties not understanding another language.  A father, a Japanese fisherman has been estranged from his son and wants to make amends.  He learns his son is in a hospital and feels he should attempt a reconciliation. 

 His Daughter-in-law tries to bring them together in hospital but her husband, the son adamantly refuses.  She left her father in law a video tape to show what the son had done.  In the tape the son promised a folk opera singer he would return next year when the singer would be able to sing much better.  "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles" was a classic opera. The singer had boasted that he was the best performer for this opera.

The father felt this was an opportunity to redeem himself.  He told his daughter in law not to tell the son and set off to China.  He engaged the services of a tour guide who could speak Japanese and then hooked up with a local expert who had a broken understanding of Japanese.  One of the first things he learned was that the singer had just been imprisoned for attacking a man.  All the experts noted that many other singers could sing the role it was be easy to find another.  But the father felt a promise had been made and he had to fulfill it. Talking to his daughter in law she assured him the promise had only been made to be polite.  

The father was frustrated that the people he relied upon were all saying he should go home and forget it.  His natural habits made it difficult to deal with people.  The people talked behind his back criticizing him and although he knew he was being mocked, he kept pushing and asking for more help. 

Visiting the prison and going through a lot of rigamarole for permission, the singer declared he was too depressed to sing.  Citing his love for his missing son.  The father decided the thing to do would be to find the son and bring him back.  He learned later the singer had never seen his son and that he was illegitimate and lived a distance away.  He found himself relying on the local guide who had poor Japanese skills and would talk to the original tourist guide to get better translations.

He had difficult talking to the 8 year old because of the language.  They somehow got lost together and the big breakthrough came from when the young boy wanted to pee in private.  After a fairly graphic scene the father made a joke and won over the young boy.  He becomes more concerned about the boy's welfare and discovers the boy does not want to see his father.  He finds himself questioning his own parenting history.

The ending is endearing in that the father realizes he doesn't have to complete his mission, the singer feeling he has let everyone down and the prison authorities have assembled musicians and audience that would be disappointed if there were no performance.  Chinese folk opera is not at all how opera is usually thought of.  It does have a traditional following and you might get a better appreciation for it, but you might not.

There, I told you most of the story.  Reconciliation sort of happens, not exactly the way you hoped. The beauty of the movie is realizing human nature is changeable with experience. 

This film succeeded because of the cast and crew.

Yimou Zhang, the director and script contributor is better known for action films such as "Raise the Red Lantern" (1991, "House of flying Daggers" (2004) and "Curse of the Golden Flower"(2006).  He also done more drama such as "Coming Home" (2014) and "Shadow" (2018).  He was chief director for both the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.  He was fined $12. million fo rhaving 3 kids which was against Chinese law at the time, but has since been lapsed. He has also been on the juries at both the Berlin International Film Festival in  1993 and the Venice Film Festival in 2007.  He has also written and produced films.

 Yasuo Furuata directed the scenes in Japan.  He had worked on a number of films with Ken Takakura.

Xiaoding Zhao, the cinematographer has won international awards and was nominated for one Oscar "House of the Flying Daggers".  Since 2019 has been a member of American Society of Cinematographers (ASC).   He would have been one of the camera men who excelled in wu xia which was to exagerate martial moves, sometimes by slowly down action, other times by reversing and of course the right angles and holding devices.   In this film there are some scenes of a majestic rock valley that he has captured very well.

Ken Takakura played the estranged father.  He had started acting in films back in 1956 with 142 credits.  This was his second to last movie.

Shinobu Terajima played the daughter in law.  She is a national award winner starting in films from 1995.

Kiichi Nakai played the son, but the viewer hears only the voice.  He was a national award winner having started films in 1983.  Of interest to me is that he appeared in a mini series of stories by Higashino Keigo, a favorite author of mine.

 Learn more about Chinese cinema:

Saturday, November 13, 2021


The Koreans keep coming up with new ideas.  Or maybe I just am not aware of their sources.  A 70 year old rather placid man pairs up with a 20 something male ballet dancer.   Quite the contrast to "Squid Game" (2021).  Netflix has picked another winner.

The title . "Navillera" translates to "Like a Butterfly"  The story originates from a Webtoon.  Webtoons started in South Korea and are a digital cartoon comic meant for smart phones.  Ideas come from all sorts of places.

We are introduced to an old man wandering around in an office building and he stumbles on a dance practice floor.  He is mesmerized by the music (of "Swan Lake") and the athleticism of the  male dancer.  Soon we are introduced to the male dancer who seems in some sort of argument with his coach.  Not too long later the older man asks to take ballet lessons.  The young dancer is insulted, but his coach forces him to not only give lessons, but accept the older man as a manager.  See the pivotal moment:

From this improbable start their relationship develops and we learn of much of their history and even of family members and aquaintances.  It might seem uninteresting, but that is far from truthful.  There were obstacles and efforts to overcome them.  The characters were not only interesting, but the actors portraying them were excellent.  It has an ending that will be hard to forget, but I have noticed none of the IMDB reviewers give much details. 

Reviewers have a decision to make about how much of the plot to reveal.  If we like the story we encourage you to check it out, but revealing too much of the plot can wreck the impact.  One movie I cannot praise enough was "Uyare"(2017 with a plot development you would not expect that makes it a much more meaningful experience.  "Navillera" has a number of plot lines that connect up that make the series deeper than you could expect.  I feel guilty I can't make myself clearer, but urge you to give it a chance. 

A couple of scenes had personal memories for me.  There was a a pianist playing for the dancers and I remembered my sister, Rebecca did that for a few years and ended up taking a few lessons.   There was another scene of an aquarium that reminded me of visits to the aquarium in Toronto and one in New Zealand.  For all of you, even the ones uninterested in ballet will find many of the scenes overpowering, some of which were done by a body double.  The ending reminded me of my last words with my Grandmother Coakwell.

Some of the crew and cast that made it so memorable include the following:

Dong-Hwa Han, was the director having worked on three other series.

Lee Eun-Mi wrote the script with only one previous credit, a highly rated series, "Tunnel" (2017)

Hun, was credited for writing, probably based on his original webtoon of the same name. 

As well as some famous ballet music, the background music was enjoyable. 

In-hwan Park played the 70 year old man.   Earlier films included "Thirst" (2009) and "Miss Granny"  (2014).  Check

Song Kang played the promising ballet dancer.  He is popular with romantic roles.  In "Navillera" there is not really any romance, but he is not like a fish out of water, with several relations you will remember.

Moon-hee Na plays the old mother.  She has won numerous awards.  At first you may not like her, but she soon becomes a supportive mother not only for her husband with the weird interest, but also her children and their spouses.  Two films in her long career are  "Miss Granny (2014) "My Mister" (2018).  Check:

Hong Seung Hee plays the grand-daughter and provides a hint of romance.  She also appears in "Move to Heaven" (2021) as another hint of romance--  She looks attractive and wholesome and is supportive of both her grandfather and of the ballet dancer.

This is really a brief description, but I assure you most of you will love it.  Don't give up your dreams.

As usual I have bolded the first mention of movies I have seen.  It is partly vanity for sure, but I want to assure you I have watched other movies involving the cast and crew.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Two Trees Make a Forest--A Canada Reads nomination

Taiwan reaches our attention mainly because of threats from China.   Jessica J. Lee the author of "Two Trees Make a Forest" doesn't dwell on the potential crisis, but perhaps let the readers appreciate the uniqueness of the island nation.  Became aware of this book during the Canada Reads program that highlighted five books written by Canadians.

 Jessica's maternal grandparents were both born in mainland China, but fled to Taiwan when Communist forces took over China.  Her grandfather had been a fighter pilot who fought against the Japanese during the Sino-Japanese War and WWII.  After joining the Flying Tigers de had received some of his training in United States.  Her grandmother had worked as a secretary for the Nationalist government whose parents chose to stay in Nanjing after the Communists controlled the country.  

Jessica's mother was born in Taiwan and endured long separations from her father.  Eventually both  parents felt the Nationalists were too corrupt and migrated to Canada and settled in Niagara Falls,  Despite their proven skills they ended up as cleaners.  Her mother married a Welsh man and had lost most contacts with her Chinese relatives.  They found a telephone bill that had two numbers on it which eventually connected them to relatives in both Taiwan and mainland China. 

When the Nationalists took over Taiwan they instituted martial law that last 38 years.  Censorship was very restrictive.  Not only were references to Marxism blocked, but words that resembled such as Mark Twain and Max Weber.  In October 1971, Taiwan was expelled from the United Nations to be replaced by the People's Republic of China. 

Jessica decided she wanted to visit Taiwan.  As an award winning nature writer she wanted to focus on such things as botany, geology, birds, etc. Read more at her website:

Geology  is important.  One factor brought out is that 75% of the land is on a slope.   To the left is an example of building on a slope.  Taiwan has lots of earthquake activity and some volcanic.  Most of the quakes are low on the Richter scale.  As a contrast Jessica recalls a 5.4 scale earthquake in southern Ontario was very scary, but her mother who had grown up in Taiwan did not notice.  Seismology was started by the Japanese with the some English contributions and today have developed a network that will help to respond to quakes.  The last severe quake in 1999 helped to create a lake.

Note on the Richter scale:  The scale is  use a base-10 logarithm meaning each magnitude 10 times stronger than the previous one.  This translates to a magnitude 2 is 10 times more intense than a 1 and a 3 magnitude is 100 times more intense than the 1.

 Indigenous tribes formed in Taiwan over 5,000 years ago and resisted as best they could the Chinese, the Japanese, the Spaniards, the Portuguese and the Dutch. They now amount to less than 3% of the population.   Nevertheless Jessica noted both the Japanese, Dutch and Brits contributed to botany, geology and zoology.  

As an island edemism is a feature.  Edemism basically means  the process where new species adapting to unique conditions  evolve and are localized.  One example that has been revived is the black faced spoonbill., not found elsewhere.   Taiwan has 60 mammal species that are unique to their country and contribute to global biodiversity along with birds and flora.


Trees form a critical role in Taiwan. Earthquakes also cause landslides and the Taiwanese have developed methods of dealing with them.  A key element is planting trees.  The forests had been decimated around the coasts to make way for farms and fisheries.  Lumber had been a major export.  By 1991 the government realized the importance of trees and enacted legislation to ban logging in natural forests.  They encountered tree poachers who could make a lot of money with little effort.  Forest rangers found one method to combat the poachers was to develop a DNA data base to identify tree poachers.  The government has found the trees are a boost to tourism as well as strengthening hillsides in the event of earthquakes.

Some earlier contacts with Canada Reads :


The two photos were taken by my son, Michael Davidson on a trip to Taiwan a few years ago.