Friday, April 29, 2022

Raatchasi

One thing that promotes equality is education.  That is if everyone gets quality education. that is still an ideal that many are struggling to achieve.  "Raatchasi" (2019) focuses on a group of people who have to fight against vested interests.  Partly it is a private school system but also partly it is complacency.  

The existing teacher staff has become lazy and allowed their knowledge and skills to atrophy.  The drop out rate is large with many quitting as soon as old enough.  The new headmistress, Geetha is determined to change that, but over the course of the film she encounters resistance.  She found an English teacher who couldn't speak English, a math teacher who didn't understand about computers, a history teacher who didn't understand purpose was to not repeat mistakes.  She felt arts and sports were important and motivating.

Recognizing money is a big part of the problem, one of her tools is to charge up fundraising.   The private school owner, Ramalingam, feels it is in his best interest to tamp down any government revenue going to their school system.  He senses Geetha is making progress and sends some goons to curtail her, but are surprised to learn she is a skilled fighter.  She is not only smart, but understanding and eventually gains the support of the staff and parents, but not before overcoming many obstacles.

Director was Sy Gowthamraj, written by Bharathi Thambi and produced by S.R. Prabhu and S.R. Prakashbabu who also produced  "Taanakkaran" (2022).  One comment when school budget challenged by the police budget was that education lessens the need for the police.   Check:   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/04/taanakkaran-colonial-police-legacy.html

Music by Sean Roldan who did "Jai Bhim" (2021)--see below.  Also composed for "Mehandi Circus" (2019).

Cinematography by Gokul Benoy.

Editor Philomin Raj who also did "Jai Bhim"  Mehandi Circus" (2019) and "Mandela" (2021) .  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/04/mandela-tamil-satire-with-apt.html

Joytika played the heaadmistess Geetha and won an award for the role.  Other films include "Thambi" (2019) and "  With her husband, Suriyv she produced one of the highest ever IMDB rated films "Jai Bhim"  Check   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/11/jai-bhim.html

 Hareesh Peradi played Ramalingam, the private school owner, a not very likable character.  Hareesh has been in both the Malayalam and Tamil films industries.  His movies include "Pulimurugan" (2016), "Vikram Vedha" (2017), "Mersal" (2017) and "Thambi" (2019).

The world is better off the more education can be spread around.  Trump once commended the "poorly educated" for their support.

As usual I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Escape from Mogadishu--we can learn to co-operate

The promotions for "Escape from Mogadishu" (2021) indicated a lot of action.  My preference is to avoid action movies unless there is some deeper meaning.  A further reading brought to my attention that this involved the North Korean embassy and the South Korean embassy somehow co-operating to flee an insane disaster in Somalia.  In such a breakdown survival is the priority and trust is a necessary tool.

One of the first scenes involves a highway mugging with lots of shooting and the theft of a gift box.  We learn that the South Koreans were on their way to meet with a Somali diplomat and felt confident this would help them get the necessary votes to join the United Nations.  Later we learned that it was the North Koreans who hired thugs to delay that appointment so they could interrupt the process.

A short time later Somali rebels started breaking down gates and had taken over a radio station and shut down communication systems.  Gunshots and dead bodies appear all over as embassy staff scramble to get out of the fire.  The Ambassador cannot reach his head office or anyone who can help with security. 

The Somalian rebels hated foreigners and the diplomats couldn't be sure who would win the battles causing a lot of indecision.  The rebels were trigger happy and we could see pre pubescent boys with guns.  Both the South and North Koreans had wives and children who were getting anxious.

Then the big surprise.  After an effort to reach the Chinese embassy failed, the North Korean ambassador decided his best option was to approach the South Koreans.  Trust is a very fragile thing with staff on both sides feeling contact would be too risky.  However both Ambassadors agreed to get together.  It was a big crowd with very limited food and other resources.

During a raid the rebels managed to snatch bottles of insulin that were important.  It only became noticed when a young child asked for sugar and the mother figured it had to do with diabetes.  Soon both wives understood the problem and it turned out insulin was available.  They decided to pool their resources and lessen their risks.  

They each had different connections, but communication was very limited.  They agreed to split their approaches with the southerners approaching Italy and the northerners to approach Egypt.  The Egyptians were too overwhelmed to help and the Italians were willing to help only South Koreans.  An earlier attempt to suggest the northerners defect failed, but the ambassador decided to pretend they had defected.  It was a point of honor that the South Ambassador had promised to include the North.  Approaching the Italians they were attacked by rebels, but the Italian guards were successful in protecting everyone.  

Then the problem was how to get to the airport.  This resulted in an unusual and spectacular car chase scene with the diplomats using padded cars to protect against snipers.  On board they realize another problem.  Kenya does not recognize South Korea, but the South Korean staff in Kenya wants to separate out the "defectors."  Ambassador Han decides his contingent will leave first and distract allowing the North Koreans to be picked up by their own side.  That is how the movie ends, not meaning to provide a spoiler.  The whole notion of these two severe enemies co-operating stretches credibility.  It would not have been possible without two men trusting each other.

Having said the story is incredible it should be added that it very credibly done.  The story had been constructed after much consultation with diplomats who were in Somalia.  They checked with gun experts to procure the wide range of weapons.  Morocco had strict gun control laws and the Korean crew had to recover spent shells and bullets.  They spent over three months shooting in a Moroccan location that was  configured to mimic Mogadishu. 

The film is in Korean with subtitles, but both embassies are forced to speak English with all others--Somalis, Americans, Europeans and Arabs.  Interesting that English is still the most common link between foreign languages.

Some of the cast and crew that were very effective.

Seung-wan Ryu was director and co-writer.  He never went to film school and claims he learned from watching Hong Kong movies, earning the nickname of "Rookie."  "Crying Fist" (2005) earned him a directors award at Cannes.

Ki-Cheol Lee, the other co-writer has written for "The Thieves" (2012) and "Assassination" (2015).

Jun-seok Bang wrote the music, much of which reflected tension.  He has also composed for "Joint Security Area" (2000) and "The Throne" (2015).  He died very recently; March 26th of this year of stomach cancer.

Young-hwan Choi was responsible for the cinematography.  The car chase scene was spectacular and done from different angles.  He has been involved with "The Thieves" (2012).

Kim Yoon-seok played Han, the South Korean Ambassador.  He has been in "Tazza:  The High Rollers" (2006)"The Happy Life" (2007), "The Chaser" (2008) and "The Thieves" (2012).

Joon-ho Huh played Rim, the North Korean Ambassador.  He is a very revered actor who has drawn high ratings.  He has appeared in "Silmido" (2003) and "Designated Survivor: 60 Days" (2019).   He runs a musical and acting academy in Las Vegas.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/10/designated-survivor-60-days-remake-of.html

 Man-sik Jeong played one of the diplomats. He played in "A Hard Day" (2014) and "The Tiger" (2015).

 Park Myung-shin played a diplomat's wife.   She has been in "Lady Vengeance" (2005), "Tazza:  The High Rollers" (2006), "Mother" (2009), "Poetry" (2010), and "Train to Busan" (2016),

The war depicted in this film is still going on with lots of refugees.  Some of them came to Canada including rap singer  K'nan.

Somalia has been a great disaster that has affected much of the world.  This film illustrates that enemies can work together.  We need more of this.

Friday, April 22, 2022

China Unbound

 Joanna Chiu, a Canadian journalist born in Hong Kong is in a unique position to explore our relation with China.   A big issue for Canadians was labeled "the two Michaels," (Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig)with one of them being an acquaintance of hers.  The American White House wanted to extradite a Chinese national, Meng Wanzhou who they suspected was defying their Iranian sanctions.  With an agreement to honor, Canada started the legal procedure.  China was very upset with this and shortly after took two Canadians into their jurisdiction, meaning prison after what were charged with spurious spying claims.  That situation was not resolved when the book was published, but Joanna commented on their release in tv. program with Steve Paikin that inspired this post.  

China has the longest history of any modern country.  At one time they felt haughty and resistant to the outside world.  Then they went through a period of humiliation.  The Opium Wars signaled their weakness.  The British managed to hold onto Hong Kong which offered a sort of beacon to the rest of China, but was seen as further humiliation.  Through hard work and careful planning they have become and economic and political force for the whole world to acknowledge and deal with.

She traveled to a multitude of countries following a Chinese connection, including of course China itself.  Perhaps like many other nations China had spies, but it seemed many espionage efforts were aimed at Chinese people.

One of her destinations was Australia.  China buys a great deal of iron ore from there.  Without dealing with the federal government the Chinese were able to  get a management agreement for 99 years with Port Darwin.  This was criticized because it gives China a strategic tool they could use in the South China Seas disputes.

An illuminating story from Australia.  Badiucao, a pseudonym was a law student in Shanghai who quit to study art in Australia.  He became a satirical cartoonist specializing in criticism of China.  The Chinese government found his true identify and was able to curtail some of his activities and that of his family in the mainland.  One day in Melbourne he was followed by four Asians, (Chinese agents) eventually he confronted them.  He revealed his identity in a film and felt he no longer had to hide. 

Turkey has become  favorite destination for many Uyghurs who are able to escape.  It is a Muslim country and with a related language.  But Turkey is trying to develop a more positive trade relationship with China.  So far they have mostly resisted demands to repatriate Uyghurs.  The Uyghurs have been imprisoned (supposedly for re-education) and are survieled with high technology.

A major Chinese project intended to replace American hegemony is labeled the Silk Road.  Reaching out to Europe which was very resistant they encountered success in Greece who was in an economic state.  China agreed to invest a huge amount of money with much going to Piraeus, a major Mediterranean port.  Greece has been voting Chinese preferred way at the United Nations.

Russia is China's biggest oil customer.  As autocrats with a history of Communism they seem to recognize unity at least in public is in their mutual interest.  The situation in Ukraine  (post publication) creates a difficult decision for China.  They have good relations with Ukraine, sending students there and having vital trade interests (food).  Russia made their first military moves before China's Paralympics had started. They have tried to stay neutral.  The resistance and with American support must give China pause regarding their plans for Taiwan. China could make a crucial difference in the Ukraine crisis with widespread ramifications.

The United States finds that China is catching up and stirs a lot of emotion.   Disinformation flows from both directions.  Donald Trump used racist language to detract from his poor management of the pandemic and cast aspersions on the government.  They have imposed sanctions on China, but at the same time American corporations are seeking more trade and investment ties.  Obama had attempted a "Pivot to East Asia," but Trump undid much of that effort.  Trump was unconcerned about human rights and according to John Bolton at least twice had told Xi that he was okay with the Uyghur concentration camps.

More post publication news:  China has made a secret deal with the Solomon Islands.  Neither side is supposed to release details without written permission from the other side.  Awhile back Solomon Islands declared Taiwan to be part of China.  It is easy to speculate that China has identified a weak country that can be of strategic interest to it.  

Biden has attempted to co-ordinate efforts against China.  He made a blunder when he suggested that of course the U.S. would repel a Chinese attack on Taiwan. The State department  amended the remarks to maintain the status of ambiguity preferred by the government.

What can we do?   

Joanna points out that anti-Asian incidents and words give China a distraction from their human rights abuses.  Too many westerners treat Chinese citizens and Chinese looking people as part of the Chinese government.  

The Chinese were quick to criticize the January 6th insurrection.  They pointed out that Americans say one thing, but do something else. Unfortunately every nation has elements that are undemocratic, but voters need to support democracy and not be distracted by racism, homophobia or other social maladies.

Although it is easy to make efforts to placate the unreasonable demands of China we need to bear in mind that there are opposing views among the Chinese people.  They need to see a better model of western democracy.

There are problems that need to be dealt with through global co-operation.  Climate change and dealing with pandemics are two that are very dangerous for everyone.  Trump spent much of his administration breaking up relations and insulting allies.  Biden has been fairly successful in fixing, but still has much to do.   

There is much to ponder in the book and we all need to keep our eyes open.

A recent blog on China:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/01/better-pay-attention-to-chinas-role-in.html

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Taanakkaran: A Colonial police legacy

 In many quarters the police have a bad reputation.  "Taanakkar," (2022) a Tamil film shows a colonial legacy that did deserve a bad reputation, but also reveals a positive view of police that is an ideal.  For the bulk of the movie you will be disgusted at how different aspects of policing have tarnished their image.

This was a highly rated movie that I felt uncomfortable watching.  Sure, lots of movies show bad situations that are meant to be overcome.  Researching I learned this was based on real events.

But first it is explained that in British colonial times, the colonizers were encountering violent resistance.  In 1857 the Sepoy mutiny threw authorities into a panic.  By 1861 they had implemented a program to forcibly recruit Indian youths for local police.  They were not allowed to talk to groups, meet friends or read or write.  As a distraction they instituted competitions for parade marching that were intended to be brutal with extra drills (ED in the film) that would induce some to run away.  As incentives the prizes included rice for eating and alcohol as well as titles and other honors. This worked well for the British.  After independence the practices were carried on because it suited politicians and police establishment.  Bribery to the trainers had become part of the process.

When the story begins set in 1998 after the explanation we encounter a group of men who want to join the police force for various reasons, but many of them are poorly qualified partly because originally they had passed, but not able to join the police for political reasons many years previous.  They are forced to train for a marching contest which might seem innocent enough, but the process is very brutal.  The protagonist, Arivu forces himself to restrain from over-reacting and is subject to more extreme brutality.  One prospect dies from exhaustion and another commits suicide. 

The men do have different motivations--a few said to get bribes, others to beat protesters and  a few to support their poor family.  Gradually we learn the motivation of the protagonist which boils down to a dying request from his father when he was very young.

His father pointed out that a police man is the first person sought when citizens encounters a problem.  Arrivu is a very strong man who encounters a great deal of unfairness.  

In British North America our situation is different.  Still the police have their history and we have received some excellent critical policing, but the news is able to find lots to criticize.  Some protesters have urged defunding the police, while others perhaps more sophisticated that many of the situations the police are confronted with require different training.

"Taanakkaran" portrays an unhealthy situation that has been rectified.  By showing an ideal it suggests we should find better solutions to policing which certainly does contribute to society.

Tamil cinema has found that violence is useful to draw an audience.  Although this one certainly has a lot of violence it makes a good point in an effective manner.  Lately I have enjoyed a number of Tamil movies that also effectively make good points.  I wish I had more access to the background of making this film, but would note some of the people involved.

This was first movie directed by Tamizeh.

Music from  Ghibran who since 2002 has done music for over 50 films including ""Maara" (2021)

Madhesh Manickam handled the cinematography.

Philomin Raj was the editor.  He has been involved with such films as "Mandela" (2021) and "Jai Bhim" (2021), two favorites.   Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/04/mandela-tamil-satire-with-apt.html

Vikram Prabhu played the protagonist, Arrivu.  He studied in San Diego earning an M.B.A. and came back to Chennai to help in the production department of family's film business.

 Anjali Nair played a romantic interest

M.S. Bhaskar played one of the bad guys.  Has appeared in "Sometimes" (2016) and "Jai Bhim" (2021), my favorite for that year.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/11/jai-bhim.html

Lal played  the meaness trainer, Essa Moorthy.  He has been seen in"Thottappan" (2019) and "Pulimurugan" (2016).  Also a prolific writer, director and producer.  As writer he did the script for "Heri Pheri" (2000).

Parts of the movie are difficult to stomach as much of the brutality is senseless, however they do get to the point and for me it was important.  Police have an important job and deserve more support.  The support is more than wages and benefits, but includes training.  In the movie Arrivu argues instead of the pointless brutality they could be learning something more useful such as psychology, sociology and mediation. 

Tamil cinema has made great strides and I am finding more worth viewing.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Think Like a Monk

My two youngest sisters have been concerned about my well being by recommending self improvement books.  I remember thinking my father didn't benefit from a Dale Carnegie course until I took it and realized it didn't make me perfect, but made me better.  Thanks also to Barb Martin who also suggested I read "Think Like a Monk."

 The author Jay Shetty talks about his life as a monk, but the cover shows a guy with hair.  The explanation is that as a young adult he did live as monk for three years and had his hair shaved off.  He underwent the life style of a monk with meditation, no possessions, early rise, etc.  He learned a lot that served him well when he was advised to re-enter his old world but bringing his new ideas. 

We all want to be better, but we all deal with distraction.  We all have them and they keep us from deciding on priorities and focusing on them or even more basically on who we are.  I can identify with this as I set out to do this blog I found the task too daunting and found lots of excuses to put it off.   I will hi-lite a few points that hit me personally, but readers might respond to others of the many interesting points.

The author quotes Kalidasa, a Sanskrit writer of the 5th century:  "Yesterday is but a dream.  Tomorrow is only a vision.  But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope."  In another passage Shetty suggests you should focus on what you can control, which are the decisions and actions of right now.

Listening to understand what another person is trying to convey is considered a gift by Shetty.  To make the other person feel comfortable you should try to build trust. One way to encourage someone to express themself is a question,  such as "What's on your mind?"

Service is an experience Shetty advocates as giving life meaning and purpose and he gives many examples.  I reflect on my mother who spent much of her time nursing her mother in law and then much time visiting her in two nursing homes.  At one she felt compelled to help out other patients and eventually she was hired, even though she never applied for any job.  After my grandmother died and my parents moved, my mother did apply for a similar position and was accepted.  Money was a factor, but it was something she genuinely felt joy doing and gave her a feeling of purpose.

Meditation is something I have read about and even studied, but found very difficult.  Shetty suggests various ways of tackling it and what to expect.  Breathing is an integral part of a monk's existence, but it is also something we tend to take for granted.  In the chaos we live in it too often seems we react without fully thinking.  A deep breath before saying something can make a big difference.

One concept that I had taken up was that the next day starts the night before.  Thanks for reminding me.  When I adopted the idea it was to make myself more effective/efficient at work--I would lay my clothes out, make my lunch, check my schedule and try to get a good night's sleep to get a good start the next day.  Now I am retired and I have perhaps slacked off a bit, but the next day is still an opportunity to get more out of life.  Try not to stay up too late, focus on a plan for the next day realizing every day is unique and you may have to make adjustments, but without a plan you will just be blown along.

Forgiveness is easy to say, but hard for many of us.  No one is perfect and we all have a past.  We can never really understand what another person has gone through.  If we have learned from our mistakes we should allow others to advance.  Gratitude for where life has placed us and we can be happy. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson "We are all connected to each other biologically.  To the earth chemically.  And to the rest of the universe atomically."

I haven't reached perfection, but would like to think I am better for reading this book.  There are lots of spiritual advisors, lots of self improvement leaders, but few who have taken a monastic life and come back to what might be called normal.  Jay Shetty carried much of the discipline and tools of his former life and is able to explain it to the rest of us with some credibility.  Approach this book with an eagerness to swallow its wisdom and you will find much that can change your life.  You already know some of it, but being reminded helps.  Some perhaps you have not thought of or at least not from a monk's perspective.

For another take on self improvement my youngest sister Jennifer offered:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/03/get-your-sht-together.html  A very different perspective, but with its own merits that I like to think pushed me in a better path.

Monday, April 11, 2022

King Richard and the slap

You don't have to know much about tennis to realize that Venus and Serena Williams were famous, not only for their athletic ability, but also their personality.  Of course another sports film might not be what you are hunting for.  There is more to this movie as recognized by the Academy.

One noticed that there were few blacks in the tennis world and that might seem noteworthy.  How did they overcome what must have racial barriers?  How did two sisters from a middle class background both become so dominant?  Part of the answer is in the title--"King Richard."   We are all products of our parents and for most of us that works out not too bad.  Venus and Serena had a father (assisted by their mother) who had a plan for them, he claims before birth.  He chose tennis as he felt blacks winning in that sport would be attention getting.  But more than that he wanted them to be well rounded with a strong education.

Previously unknown to most fans, he had three other daughters and they were valued as well.  They traveled together and at one point he insisted a contract had to be for the whole family.

He and his wife identified the two of their daughters as having enough talent.  They used community facilities to build up their tennis skills, but were constantly angling to get professional coaching.  They had few resources, but were persistent.  Finally using videos and mostly a charming aggressive approaches he broke through and was able to strongly impress a coach who would teach one of them for free.  Later on Richard was able to get an even better coach and the younger daughter squeezed into training.

While all this is going on Richard was determined that all his children would get a balanced education, insisting on top marks.  As the older daughter Venus was winning matches he became concerned she was bragging (boosted by his other daughters).  He showed them all a video of "Cinderella" and asked them what they got out of it.  What he was looking for was that Cinderella was humble and that is what he expected of his daughters.

While the coaches were pushing what they saw as extraordinary talent, Richard was constantly trying to push different techniques.  Later he seemed vindicated by a repetitive suggestion, but for the most part he seemed like an interfering parent.  It became very annoying when he went against some experienced advice about the career path of Venus.  He insisted that the whole family be included to a training camp in Florida from their California home, then he said his daughter would not participate in any junior tournaments.  The coaches had touted the path of Jennifer Campriatti who had won numerous tournaments, but as we soon learned developed bad habits involving drugs.  His daughters all got high marks in school and Venus was able to speak four languages. 

The movie heads for the anticipated climax, after all,we know where the two women end up, but the writer and director have something else in mind.  It does not end with a victory, but does end in joy.  During the end credits we can read about their amazing accomplishments that seem like mere footnotes.

There are a few sidebars about the racial situation with a tv news clip of the Rodney King beating and once in awhile Richard expresses sarcastic biting remarks against racist assumptions going further on one occasion.

There was more than an interesting story and a well known actor to make this a satisfying view. 

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and written by Zach Baylin.

Aunjanue Ellis played the mother and as such also got a Oscar nomination.  Received a B.A. in African-American studies from Brown University.  Some of her films include "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" (2009), "The Help" (2011), "The Book of Negroes" (2015), "If Beale Street Could Talk" (2018) and  "Desginated Survivor" (2018-2019).  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/09/the-book-of-negroes.html

Tony Goldwyn played the first coach.  He is the son of Sam Goldwyn Jr and has himself been an actor, director and producer.  Films he has appeared in include:"Ghost" (1990), "The Pelican Brief" (1993), "Truman" (1995), "Scandal" 2012-2018) where he played the president for seven seasons.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/12/truman-vs-today.html

Jon Bernthal played the second coach.  Born in Washington DC, son of a lawyer he studied acting in Moscow, Russia where he also played professional baseball.  Back in America he has been in such films as "The Ghost Writer" (2010), "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013), "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" (2015) "Sicario" (2015), "The Accountant" (2016), "Wind River" (2017), "Baby Driver" (2017), "Widows" (2018),  "The Walking Dead" (2010-2018), "Ford v Ferrari" (2019) and "The Unforgivable" (2021).

Saniyya Sidney was chosen to play Venus Williams.  Before that she had appeared in "Hidden Figures" (2016), and "Fences" (2016).

Demi Singleton was picked to play Serena.  She had appeared in one film and more recently a series, "Godfather of Harlem."

Will Smith of course was the star.  He had plenty of smart quips you might associate with him in other roles.  At points you might not have liked him as he was an overbearing parent who occasionally lost his temper.  He started his career as a rapper on "The Fresh Prince of Belair" and went on to do such films as "I, Robot" (2004), "Hitch" (2005), "The Pursuit of Happyness" (2006) and ""Concussion" (2018).  He also produced a number of films including  "The Pursuit of Happyness"  and "The Karate Kid (2010) with his son Jaden.   He along with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith produced the film.

You probably know lots about two of the executive producers, Venus and Serena Williams.  They helped make sure the story was factual.

Will may well be best remembered for slapping the face of Chris Rock on international tv at this years' Oscar Awards.  While this was shaping, I was semi dozed in bed and was startled and then confused with this action.  Revisiting I learned the host Chris Rock had been spouting out a series of "comic" insults to the audience and hit on one towards Will's wife that at first Will laughed at, but after glancing at his wife and saw she was not amused.  He was in the front row and easily got on stage and not only hit Chris, but swore which was picked up on many videos.  

Many have expressed their opinions.  Many of us thought he was protecting his wife.  Kareem Abdul Jabbar wrote that he felt Will lived up to an unfortunate stereotype, an angry black man.  The Academy decided he would be banned from any awards for 10 years.  Everyone wishes Chris Rock would have chosen a different joke.

An Oscar carries an amount of profit for a film financier.  Many film makers will be reluctant to invest in Will Smith because they will be missing that extra inducement.  On the other hand ten years is a long time and Will has proved to be a versatile money maker so when the right circumstances occur he may well find himself the solution to some one's problem.  A few years back there was great consternation that no blacks were nominated for an acting award. 

I like him as an actor and appreciate he is talented as a producer.  But he will always be associated with the slap.  The movie stands on its own and is one my favorites so far this year.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Move

"Move" is about human geography, that is, about where humans live and the author contends that humans have always been on the move.  In the beginning we were nomadic, seeking where food was readily available. Later we moved to where the jobs were.  Now more people are seeking freedom, security and sustainability.

Parag constructs a formula depicting a trend:  demographic imbalances+ political upheaval+ economic dislocation+ technological disruption+ climate change X connectivity= accelerated mobility.  Many details factor in.  One irony is that "advanced" nations are having a declining birth rate (i.e. they are aging) while less developed nations have higher birth rates that trap many in poverty.  While we are aging we will need younger people to take care of our elderly and replace job vacancies. Some powerful voting blocks are resistant to newcomers especially those who are not white or have strange customs.

Donald Trump used anti-immigration policies to get elected.  To limit the number of Indians migrating they imposed restrictions on H1-B visas.  This encouraged Silicon Valley to outsource work to Asia and develop digital mobility.  Many skilled Asians chose other countries to migrate to.  Violence, poor health care and inequality have forced different choices for many prospective immigrants.

The job market will be drastically changing.  Automation bolstered by computer power will lead to further traditional labor reductions.  This will lead to new jobs, but requiring new skills.  Another area of opportunities is agriculture to feed our increasing populations.  Some lands will be opened up in northern countries and many cities will adopt massive hydroponics. As jobs relocate people have to be able to move to where opportunities are open, but workers will have to keep their skills up to date..

Climate change will increasingly be a reason to seek a more livable location.   Two directions are basic:  inland and north.  Some major areas that will be suitable are Canada and Russia with increased fertile land.  Surprised to learn that he thought the Great Lakes Region of North America is relatively safe.  The Arctic with some adjustments will be more livable.  The author thinks the adaptions will involve new cities (or olds ones changed) with environmentally friendly enhancements.  He mentions that air conditioning will be necessary to live in major parts of the world, but can be made climate friendly and of course plants should be more than decorations. Desalination will need to provide drinkable water.

The Covid 19 pandemic has encouraged a new dynamic.  Many are seeking where science is not trumped by politics and where technology is tied to public health.  The pandemic, following the 2008 financial collapse has disrupted retirement plans and many are looking for a lower cost of living with such countries as Mexico and Costa Rica.

In our past home ownership has been a motivating dream for most of us.  The author suggests our dream house should be replaced by a dream of mobility.  Renting will be part of increasing mobility.  To survive one needs to go where the jobs are and develop the skills that society wants.  Portable homes are already becoming more common.  Climate change will make some places unsafe to be.  A few thoughts on what pursuit of the dream:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/10/dream-house.html

There is much resistance to immigrants even though they are necessary for our survival.  Assimilation needs to be emphasized to avoid segregation.  Germany is one that has made an effort.  Language courses and job training are two programs.  Education should increase our awareness about human similarities as well as differences. Parag feels the world needs a global immigration policy.  Forces of nature and man made problems will assure that mobility is essential.   We each will have our own traditions, many of which we will be able to pass on.

The more we open up the better.  Citizenship passports for those with money or skills.  migrant rights resisted by many countries (and citizens)  New Zealand allows all permanent residents (i.e. stakeholders) to vote.  My son, Michael when he was unable to get a job in Canada matching his skills he decided to take a chance in New Zealand where he knew no one, with only a friend of a friend to guide him.  Since then he has enhanced his skills and has achieved a satisfying position

Politically we live in a divided world, but in reality we live on one planet.  Borders make it difficult to co-ordinate jurisdiction over lands that transcend man made lines.  A few countries have managed it such as Botswana with Zambia and Mozambique and South Africa.  International agencies have managed to have 15% of the earth's land surface set aside as protected eco zones.  E.O. Wilson has advocated for 50% to be set aside.  For some enlightened views of our past and future check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/11/edward-o-wilson-tackles-meaning-of.html

 There is much useful discussion in this book.  The future has many challenges that are only being partially addressed.

An earlier book by Parag Khanna that helped me change my pension investments.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/07/the-future-is-asia.html

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Sharmaji Namkeen

"Sharmaji Namkeen" (2022) is an interesting movie, as it turns out to be the last one for a former Bollywood superstar.  The topic is retirement with family restrictions.  With no choice in the matter Sharma is forced to retire.  Families have an idea of what is proper behavior for their widower father.  As you  might imagine old people often appear to be out of date to their offspring.

An inescapable fact is that the leading man died during the filming leaving the dilemma of how to carry on.  Rishi Kapoor was only 67 when he died and they had already done a significant footage of film.  Rishi was key to the film and it would not be effective to not include his role in the remaining filming and too expensive to start from scratch.  They decided to hire a double and chose Paresh Rawal, a well established actor of a similar build.  Makeup and costume design help smooth over the small amount of dissonance.  In truth I am more of a Paresh Rawal fan, but was not sure which was which.  The role switches don't interfere with the story.

Ranbir Kapoor, son of Rishi Kapoor and a major star in his own right does a bilingual (English and Hindi) explanation to start the film.

After Sharma is left at home he is lost for what to do.  His eldest son Rinku ridicules many of his efforts and seems more concerned about what his friends and prospective relatives would think.  His son is getting married and planning to move into his own flat.  Through some misunderstanding (where would the film industry be without misunderstandings?) Sharma ends up cooking for a group of middle aged women who are delighted with what he offers.  He loosens up, gets involved with their games of charade and breaks into a dance once in awhile.  Someone posted a video of it and it reaches his son who is very embarrassed by it and objects to his dad's activities.  Eventually the father and son become mutually supportive with the help of the women's group.  It did seem to me the story could have been extended for a more satisfying ending, but undoubtedly the filming process had dragged on too long.

It is a satisfying ending in that Sharma does finally get to enjoy his retirement.  IMDB followers give it a better than average rating.  The end credits showed a few clips of Rishi in rehearsals, often giving out instructions to make the scene more effective.

The cast and crew had a tougher time than usual finishing this film and deserve some recognition.

Farhan Akhtar was one of the producers.  He started producing with a classic, "Dil Chatha Hai" (2001), then went on to "Lakshya" (2004), "Don" (2006) and many others.  He has since become a major actor with such films as "Rock On" (2008), "Karthik Calllng Karthik" (2010), "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara" (2011), "Dil Dhadakne Do" (2015) and "The Sky is Pink" (2019).   check an older blog:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/11/farhan-akhtar-young-man-on-rise-in.html

Hitesh Bhatia was both director and writer.  It is only his second film.  He had been concerned about how the Kapoor family would accept the final film, but they loved it.  He described the last shot that was intended to be a long shot, but Rishi thought a close up would be better and waited for the makeup people to do their job.

Supratik Sen was a co-writer.  He has been involved with scripts for "Kaminey" (2009), "Kai Po Che" (2013), "Parched" (2015),"Fitoor" (2016), and "Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui" (2021). Check: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/01/chandigarh-kare-aashiqui-another-social.html

Rishi Kapoor was the main character Sharma.  Rishi got an early start in films due to family connections.  Over 150 films including as a leading man, comic roles and even villains.  His films include "Bobby" (1973), "Luck by Chance" (2009), "Agneepath" (2012), "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" (2012)."Sanam Re" (2016), "Kapoor & Sons" (2016), and "102 Not Out" (2018).  During the filming of "Sharmaji Namkeen" he died in 2020/

Paresh Rawal stepped in to finish the role.  He has over 200 acting credits including such films as "Heri Pheri" (2000),  "Cheeni Kum" (2007), "Jaane Tu" (2008), "Road to Sangam" (2009), "Paa" (2009), "OMG Oh My God!" (2012), "Table No. 21" (2017) and "Sanju" (2018).  He has also produced hundreds of tv series episodes.  On top of all that he was a Member or Parliament 2014-2019. 

Juhi Chawla,who had a substantial supporting role was a big reason I decided to watch this film.  She is very deft with comedy, but has also done well in dramatic roles.  She is very subtle, which might be appreciated when she does charades both at a party, but also jailside.  As a former Miss India she once played the romantic lead in a number of movies.  Her hits include "Yes Boss" (1997), "Duplicate" (1998),  "3 Deewarein" (2003) "My Brother...Nikhil" ( 2005) and "Ventilator" (2018).  She formed a partnership with Shah Rukh Khah that led to Red Chillies Entertainment.  Lately her talents seem to be used mostly in comic roles, although she had had some involvement as a producer and has selected some socially relevant roles.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/07/ventilator-serious-movie-with-comic.html

 Suhail Nayyar played Rinku the son of Sharma.  His film credits included "Udta Punjab" (2016) and "Hotel Mumbai" (2018).

 Isha Talwar played the prospective daughter in law.  Her film credits include "Bangalore Days" (2014), "Tubelight" (2017), "Har Kisse Ke Hisse Kaamyrab" (2018), Article 15" (2019) and "Ginny Weds Sunny" (2020) .   Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/03/bangalore-days.html

Ranbir Kapoor, the son of Rishi Kapoor who not only gave the introduction, but also permission to carry on with the role switch.  Ranbir has established himself with a number of films such as "Wake up Sid" (2009), "Barfi" (2012), "Tamasha" (2015), "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil" (2016) and "Sanju" (2018).  Check out:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/02/tamasha-wonderful-story.html

 This is an enjoyable two hours.  If you are like me you can appreciate that retirement is a time of opportunities.  The last chance to see Rishi Kapoor who left a legion of fans.

Movies I have seen are bolded at their first mention.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Soil

"Soil" (2021) has a lot of unique features that caught my attention.  There was a Morocco connection, an unusual burial practice and an interesting language issue.  

The crux of the story is when a Moroccan immigrant dies living in Belgium they had the choice of getting buried locally (where family living in Belgium could visit) or back to the holy land they came from.  By a set of fluky circumstances some Moroccan soil was sent to a family that repatriated burials and a younger son decided to use the soil to be used to bury a Moroccan in Belgium.  This turned out to be popular.

Of course living people were heavily involved.  At the beginning the narrator, Ismael, the young son takes us back 15 years or so to when his mother died.  She had requested to be buried in Brussels so she could rest close to where her family lived.  As it happened the father, Omar who ran a business repatriating the bodies to Morocco for burial felt pressured to send his wife back to Tangiers, Morocco where she had been born.  The younger son felt betrayed.  A few years later the father decided to leave the business and left 50% to the younger son who was not interested and split the remaining between his daughter, Nadia and her husband, Rachid who had been involved in the business.  It is Ismael who stumbles on using the Moroccan soil so that the Moroccan immigrants can keep their dead buries close to them.  There are technical difficulties, but more family conflicts.  A few outsiders are involved.

A few reviewers complained that the 8 episodes left a few unresolved issues.  I felt it was complete in itself, but agreed there are always issues that could be extended and it looks like there will be a season two and I don't want to miss it.

My brother in law, Ali died while visiting his family in Morocco unfortunately died there.  I remember my sister and one niece dropped what they were doing in Montreal and flew to Morocco for the burial.  I can only guess what he would have chosen.  His family in Morocco will likely visit his grave, but my sister and her two daughters will find the trip requires a lot of effort.  In the series, the trip is only a few hours flight from Belgium to Morocco, but causes anxiety among those whose future is in Belgium.

Every story requires some core tools.  The burial practices provided one such, but to gain more popular attention we viewers want to know how the people fit in.  As in real life there was conflict and a few side issues.  The closest friend to the youngest son was a Belgian, Jean-Baptiste (JB) who was a bit resented and he had a sister, AlizĂ©e.  The widowed father had found a new love, a Dutch Muslim widow who the father hid from his children. 

IMDB clearly said the movie was in Dutch and Arabic, but on Netflix they claimed it was in Flemish and Arabic.   Not my first movie in Belgium and this had caused me confusion. Dutch is the main language in Netherlands while Flemish, as the second official language is found in northern Belgium and parts of France.   From what my research has revealed it appears Dutch and Flemish are very similar with the main difference being pronunciation.  The Dutch pronunciation tends to English while the Flemish tends to French.  There are vocabulary differences, but generally each can understand the other.  A prominent Flemish actor is the prolific award winner Matthias Schoenaerts who has appeared in such international films as "The Black Book" (2006) "Bullhead" (2011), "Rust and Bone" (2012), "Suite Francaise" (2014), "Far from the Madding Crowd" (2015), "The Danish Girl" (2015), "Red Sparrow" (2018), "A Hidden Life" (2019) and "The Laundromat" (2019).

Producer Annemie Degryse with a background of Dutch/Flemish films that included "Rust and Bone" (2012). 

The main director was Mathieu Mortelmans who has a background with Dutch/Flemish tv. series.  Two of the directors, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah  also have a background with Dutch/Flemish films and got attention of American film makers and directed "Bad Boys for Life" (2020)

The trio of writers, Zouzou Ben Chikha, Wannes Cappelle and Dries Heyneman all took supporting roles in the series.

Yassine Ouaich plays Ismael, the young at first disinterested son and latches onto the idea of using Moroccan soil for burials in Belgium.  His father is upset with him, but he sneaks around.

Ward Kerremans plays the best friend, JB.  

Ahlaam Teghadouini plays Nadia, the helpful daughter and bit of a mediator in only her second tv. series..  She is very likable.

Said Bumazoughe plays the son in law Rachid who really thought he would take over the business.  He was very reluctant to accept the idea of using Moroccan soil for Belgian burials.  

Ben Hamidou plays the father who pretends to go to Mecca while he courts a Dutch woman.  He doesn't want to accept new innovations, but his lover sees things a little differently.  Ben had been in "Two Days, One Night" (2014).

 Charlotte De Bruyne plays JB's sister and you might guess has a bit of romance.  

Tom Vermeir plays Brahim, a recent Muslim convert just out of prison and wearing an ankle device has been a rock star, literally for a few years.  His role is a calm being and helps keep others balanced.

The world is increasngly inter connected and this film fits right in.  Available on Netflix in dubbed or subtitled format. 

Another blog dealing with my confusion between Dutch and Flemish:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/11/dutch-movies-are-hidden-gems.html