Monday, January 30, 2023

All Quiet on the Western Front--the German remake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Do Elections Guarantee Mandates?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Black Dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ra Mi Ran played Park Seong-soon.  One of her film credits was for "Hope" (2018)

 Jung Taek-Hyun played Hwang Bo Tang the student who dropped out.  His film credits include "Forgotten" (2017) and "Flower of Evil" (2020).   Check 

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

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Navalny--a hero for our times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Swedish Classic remade as "A Man Named Named Otto

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

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

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

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

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

 A great cast and crew put together a worthy remake.

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

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

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

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

Fredrik Backman, a favorite writer from Sweden wrote the original book "A Man Called Ove"  He was a film producer for another of his books "Anxious People" (2021).  A post for his latest book with links to his other books:   

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 13, 2023

The Undoing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2023


 Several years ago I decided not to drink milk although up until the decision it was one of my favorite drinks.  My decision was based on health reasons--my daughter's swim coach had told them not to drink milk before a meet as it would be slow to digest.  At about the same time my son and daughter's choir master told them not to drink milk before a concert as it would clog up their throats.  Researching only reinforced and amplified these concerns.  Fortunately there are alternatives--almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, even water.

 At one time in our history cow's milk enabled Europeasn to boost their health economically.  As civilization advanced breeding, machinery and business evolved to control cows and the associated business.  The dairy industry is important to Canada and is a critical element of trade negotiations.

 "Cow" (2022) demonstrates that cows do in fact suffer.  Shortly after birth their ears are punctured to tag them.  We see a mating, but we are also aware that artificial insemination is becoming more common.  After insemination a veterinarian is there for an invasive procedure to determine not only if they are pregnant, but also when the cow might start producing milk

Calves that are not deemed likely profitable milkers or breeders (mostly male) are disposed of.

We are shown lots of grass eating.  The cows convert the grass to milk and also skin, bones and methane which become environmental concerns.  Environmentalists are concerned that land that could help mitigate climate change is being diverted for land that aggravates the planet's problem.

We watch calves being born, possibly a breach birth as a team of people are pulling on a rope.  After a brief interlude the calves are put out of the reach of their mothers who are agonizing over the separation.

In some ways the film is boring in the same sense that life of cows IS boring.  Humans are constantly looking for some stimulation, but with farm animals stimulation is limited to what is profitable.

The film ends with no warning with a cow being shot dead that supposedly was taken away by bulldozer.

Cow's milk is good for calves just as human milk is good for humans.  I had read that goat milk is becoming important not only for taste, but also it is supposed to be healthier and closer to human milk.  It has become so popular that there is a problem of what to do with the male goats as most Canadians have not developed a taste for goat meat.  Many of these male goats will be killed and never eaten by humans.   There are marketing efforts to get more Canadians to eat goat meat.  I will be looking for substitutes for ice cream and cheese.

Andrea Arnold was the director.English born she began her tv. career as a dancer and acted .  She graduated from the American Film Institute in 1991.   Three times winner of the Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival.  Won Oscar in 2005 for best short film, live action.  Currently up to 67 film awards,  Her       films include "Fish Tank" (2005) and "Wuthering Heights" (2011).

Magda Kowalczyk, the cinematographer was born in Poland  and had graduated from Polish National Film School and the Budapest Cinematography Masterclass.   Has filmed in the United Kingdom, Poland, United States and Israel.

Jacob Secher Schulsinger was one of the editors.  His film credits included "Force Majeure" (2014), "The Square" (2017) and "Big Little Lies" (2019). 

Watching this makes us aware of some of the consequences of our decisions are unpleasant.  Many are apathetic, but others do care.

Not sure where this film can be accessed, but I was able to get the DVD from my local library.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey

 Some of you may have noticed an increased interest on movies from India especially in my case for Malayalam movies.  I attribute this to Kathy Gibson who blogs mainly about Bollywood movies, but carefully lists regional Indian films.  Combined with the competitive streaming market there are a lot of good and excellent  foreign sources of entertainment.  As an eager consumer  I have been directed to enjoyable and satisfying films. 

"Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey" (2022 reflects typical Malayalam culture, to an extent  but with a twist that reflects all cultures to an extent.  We in the west like to think we are progressive, but in fact the process has been a long time developing and still has a long way to go.  In most cultures there is a male bias.  It is us males that are able to use our superior physical strength to dominate our female partners.  Gradually women have fought back and we have learned that female contributions can make our lives more satisfying.

Malayalis are civilized.  Arranged marriages are still common, but we can appreciate parents want to protect their daughters and are concerned that their daughters not be abused.  Jaya was brought up to be educated and her father boasted that she would be the next Indira Gandhi.  She had a teacher who seemed to be a feminist, advocating equality and she fell for him, but he soon revealed another side and she was stunned.  Her parents were convinced that the solution was an arranged marriage after being told her education could continue after marriage.

A suitable man, Rajez was found, even acceptable to Jaya.  After the marriage it seemed that Rajez had been putting on a show, but in reality was a chauvinistic male prone to temper tantrums.  He blocked her education ambitions.  He slapped his wife for minor, even imagined offenses.  He would feel guilty, apologize and take her out to a movie or restaurant.  Then the process would repeat.  For awhile she accepted his behavior and carried on doing her chores and even learned new recipes liked by everyone from her smart phone.  

But then we were all surprised when she stopped him in mid slap and actually beat him up enough he sought medical attention.  Brutal fighting is often central to a segment of Malayalam film audiences and this is more martial which we learn she picked up on a smart phone.  He stops slapping her after a second fight, but still wants to redress his situation.  He is trapped by his culturally supported ego.  He is advised to get her pregnant and she will be forced to obey him.

She responds to his nicer behavior not noticing that he is monitoring her menstrual cycle.  In fairly quick order she does get pregnant.  She uncovers his game plan and is upset.  After a miscarriage she decides to leave him although both sets of parents are not supportive, feeling she should forgive and stick with her husband.

All this time we have been set up for a poetic twist ending.  In a sense it proves that gaining rights and respect require strength of one sort or another because those vested in the current power structure will not easily concede any of their benefits.  When both genders work together this could be a better world for each.

You will laugh, but you will also share Jaya's frustration.  Humor is a useful tool to help open awareness.  She is good intentioned, but kept down by outdated cultural habits.

Without a good cast and crew the idea behind this film would not be as impactful. The Malayalam movie industry seems to churn out very capable filmmakers.

Vipin Das wrote and directed.  In his two previous films he also wrote and directed.  Nashid Mohamed Famy was a co-writer.

Ganesh Menon was one of the producers.  His film credits include "Vikruthi" (2015).  

Lakshmi Warrier was a travel agent who later started her own travel agency.   She sought advice of an uncle on how to use her travel business to work with the film industry.  He advised her instead to get involved with production management which she did and that in turn led to being a producer.  She also was a producer for "Vikruthi" (2015)

Ankit Menon wrote music and like many composers also was a playback singer.

Bablu Aju handled the cinematography

John Kutty was the editor.  He started editing television shows in 2000 including an American series through Cartoon Network.  His film credits include "Pulimurugan" (2016)

Basil Joseph  played Rajesh who was the dominant and abusive husband and later a humiliated spouse who lost his power over his wife.   His film credits include "Virus" (2015), "Kilometers and Kilometers" (2020) and "Joji" (2021).  He does not always play a bad guy as I am just starting to "Palthu Janwar" (2022).  He has also directed 5 films.

Darshana Rajendran played the modest, but determined Jaya.  To prepare for the fight sequences she studied Taekwando for 2 months.  She credits the film realism to an action coach and John Kutty, the editor and Bablu Aju, the cinematographer.  But there was realism as she drew blood from Basil' face which required stitches, visible in later scenes.  Earlier films have included  "Koode" (2018, "Virus" 2019), "C.U. Soon"(2020), "Hridayam" (2022) and also did a Tamil film.

Manuj Pillai  played Jaya's mother-.  Her film credits include my favorite of this past year "#Home" (2021) and "The Teacher" (2022).  At that moment she has been in 78 episodes of a television series.  Check:

If you are not used to southern India films this might be a good place to start.  Having said that it is available from Hotstar which is transferring its library to Hulu which is owned by Disney+.

The first mention of films seen by me have been bolded.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Memories of 2022

This was supposed to be the year we recovered from Covid and to some extent we did.  However it did rear its ugly head from time to time and has failed to go beyond the horizon.  Memories are fragile, but here are some I don't want to forget.

 Boris Brott was killed by a hit and run driver while walking in his neighborhood.  He spent a number of decades leading various orchestras in different countries and arranging musical events.  He chose to live in Hamilton where his children attended Westdale High School as have both my children.  I remembered attending a concert with the Hamilton Philharmonic backing Chuck Mangione, and later I was able to get the album.  I attended a few operas that he helped set up. When the Pan-Am Games had some soccer games in Hamilton he led some musicians backing up Terra Lightfoot which is shown to the left.  He enjoyed and promoted a wide variety of music as he felt it made life better.

Bill Russell, perhaps the winningest athlete in all pro teamsports with 2 national titles in the NCAA, an Olympic Gold Medal and twelve NBA titles.  He is the one who helped shift the attitude on basketball defense from an oxymoron to a game changer.  More than all that he stood up for human rights when it wasn't easy and was awarded a Presidential Medal of Honor.  You can read about his effect on basketball and me at:


Edson Arantes do Nascimento better known as Pele died in the last week of 2022.  He managed to survive through the World Cup that he had been a principle hero for.  I remember driving from Barrie to Toronto to watch Pele playing in an exhibition game at Varsity Stadium in 1971.  Brazil had won the World Cup in 1970.  You don't have to be a soccer fanatic to recognize one of the world's greatest athletes.

A new family member is welcomed to the fold.  Madelyn Rose, to be known as Maddie. 

 We both became members of the Royal Botanical Gardens.  Winter Lights were our first event there.


Early January is cold, but the scenery was wonderful.



 An anniversary present from Heather.  Grain and Grit put on a zoom meeting about beer, cheese and chocolate.  Very tasty combinations.



Many years ago we went to the Aquarium in Toronto for our anniversary and yes there was a restaurant.  This year we decided an RBG event would be appropriate.  Under the Canopy offered a display of tropical animals.  At first the sloth was sleeping, but when the caretaker got out the dinner the sloth was very lively compared to our expectations.

                                A green snake.

Our long tradition on a New Years' Eve Party was broken by a trip to New Zealand and two years of Covid.  March 5th we assembled most of our previous guests and made it over--we even made it to midnight.  The theme was a Tropical nite.

One new and welcome visitor.

      A good spread of appetizers.

 Doors Open Hamilton

 Stairwell in Coppley Building for Doors Open Hamilton.  Given a tour by Terry Cooke.

 Walking tour with Bill King









John Polkinghorne turned  70  




 I have long been fascinated with the many murals in walking distance.  Here is a example of a very interesting one. 

Artist Scott MacDonald in action.  See finished work in blog plus over 60 others and a few other artists.


 Enjoyed Luca Vitali at the Racamultese Festival.  Check Hamilton's connection to Racamulto:





Blue Jays win 9-2 on Canada Day.







 Trip to Port Dover to see Norm Foster play (Halfway There)--reminded me of Haliburton that also claims to be halfway between Equator and North Pole.  I had an interesting restaurant entree, tandoori salmon

World Dodgeball Championship were held in Edmonton and they provided opportunity to see Michael after three years.  

This is the famous Maori hakka.  The New Zealand team did it at the beginning of each day.

 Not sure what this is called, but some teams as sort of a victory dance invite their opponents to also celebrate.  They go arm and arm in a circle until they all collapse.

More on Dodgeball:







West Edmonton Mall.  It is overwhelming.





 Chianti where we had dinner.   Took photo in a morning that I was seeking some murals.  I thought this was an abandoned Church, but it turns out it used to be a post office.  Actually it is an Italian restaurant that we quite enjoyed, service, ambiance and food.  About a block from our hotel on Whyte Avenue.



 At the Edmonton Airport a commemoration of Wayne Gretzsky in a triumphant moment.




Checking out scenery in Toronto, actually Michael likes to geo cache wherever he goes




With some Kiwi visitors watching the Blue Jays.








Another Blue Jays trip.  They won 10-1 after a nite of celebrating.  It wasn't actually dark at all.





A joyous occasion was when Ryan married Samantha shown here with Emma.  It seemed risky holding an outdoor ceremony on October 22, 2022, but the weather added to the beauty.  A poster to be remembered:  "Pick a seat, not  side.  We will all be family when they tie the knot."   Photo by Sharon.


We went on the trails of RBG  on October 30

Sharon meets a dog, Ripley and just happens to have dog biscuits on her.





Christmas Eve was differently than had been habit forming.  It was a stage show at Theatre Aquarius, but it was different.  Personal--the actors told their personal stories and they centered around their experience in Hamilton.  Many of their references were familiar.  At the end they closed with a request to contribute to a food bank and personally took our donations in stockings by the front door.  We had a enjoyable meal at Pho B & T. and got set for Christmas. 

 New Years Eve is the closeout of the year.  Getting back into our regular groove.  This year we declared Camp Winealot.













 Barbara Martin, our double prize winner!







 Another good year for watching movies.  Which ones did you also see?  Which ones did I miss?

Among my top favorite movies many were subtitled.

Here is my list of books read in 2022.  Feel free to comment:

Restaurants:  Rapscallion (Beatles brunch), Pho B & T,  Mai Pai on Barton, Afrolicious   A takeout with Persian at Nannaaa .  While in Edmonton we enjoyed Chianti on Whyte Ave.  

Most popular blogs:  Number one dealt with book on "China Unbound" from a Canadian perspective.

Number two was inspired by the Trucker Convoy to Ottawa that I felt was misguided:

Number three was about an Egyptian tv. series partly filmed in the U.S. with an interesting complicated plot.

This honestly has been a better year than last year, but there certainly were pleasant memories in 2021