There wasn’t an edition published last week since I was away and had little access to the computer (on purpose).
Scenes From A Marriage (1973): Jessica Chastain had worked previously with Liv Ullman, the Norwegian actress and director on films like Miss Julie. Ullman is widely regarded as one of the best European actresses, although I have to admit that I am not all that familiar with her work. She frequently worked with Ingmar Bergman. This movie, which was originally a TV series as well, was the original inspiration for the recently released series starring Chastain and the everywhere-man Oscar Isaac. It follows the same chapter pattern with moments in time with the primary couple, Marianne and Johan. In the first chapter, Marianne and Johan have their friends over for a dinner and drinks and it eventually becomes a more tense scene with the friends shouting their gripes about their relationship and a desire to end it. Marianne is a family law lawyer and Johan is an assistant professor. Marianne is able to be a source of legal counsel eventually through the end of the conversation. Chastain was an IT manager in the more recent storyline. In that first chapter Marianne and Johan have been together for ten years. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen the latest version nor this one. There are many similarities between the two series but there are also some material differences. I don’t spoil that much to reveal that in this version, Johan comes early to their cottage property and announces that he has fallen in love with someone else. He will be setting off to Paris with this new person the next day for a number of months. I think audiences from the seventies where divorce was not so prevalent than it is today would be more accepting of the reaction of Marianne upon hearing this news. I am not sure that today’s viewers would be as accepting. Then again, this is true of much of the relationship between these two people. The underlying theme is that some people, whether together or not, seem to gravitate to one another. Maybe they are more mature in accepting the wishes of a spouse who questions the relationship they have? Perhaps they are less spiteful and looking for revenge, all very human emotions that don’t seem to show themselves. I am not sure. As things progress the sides have flipped from the latest version where it was Chastain who looked for more, and requested the divorce. Johan seems a little less manipulative in this series. The children are not seen and rarely spoken about except for Marianne to request that Johan try and make an effort to remember their birthdays. Rather matter-of-factly it is mentioned that the children don’t really want to see their father. The other theme that extends into both is this idea that there is no clean break. When children are involved that is absolutely the case. However when some of the scenes are played out, one wonders whether that ability to see it as just a momentary lapse can override a real betrayal. There are certain things that I feel are non-negotiable in a relationship, and in one of the later episodes it can be seen to occur. It was surprising and unexpected that it went there, but even more surprising that later there is a further meeting up. It was interesting to review, to compare and contrast the two versions. I can see where Chastain felt that there was updating necessary, and for her the stronger more independent woman of a household. Isaac in the later version is more sympathetic. Johan far less so, even while mumbling about how sorry he is in his life, at virtually every stage. There is no doubt that even with this 70s version that I still see Little Children comparisons. Still Marianne is more a victim in this circumstance throughout. After all is said and done, it doesn’t really speak too highly of the institution of marriage.
Johan and Marianne discuss their relationship.
Silk Road: I have to admit that I haven’t heard much about Silk Road as a website until recently, and most of it is through books about the principal true character named Ross Ulbricht. Ross is a brilliant young man born in 1984, who struggled like many young people to find his niche. He had broad visions for himself as someone who could “change the world”. He was also very much a libertarian in the truest sense of the word. He believed generally that people, and notably Americans, have the right to do whatever they want with no government interference. He was attending University of Texas, and was about to finish as an engineer. His father notably looked upon him as a person who couldn’t apply himself and never seemed to finish what he started. In 2010, he came up with the idea that he could set up an anonymous marketplace where people could buy and sell anything, including drugs, which he regarded as a personal choice. He would not allow firearms or child pornography or the like. He had a view that using TOR, which encrypted the users identity and making payments in untraceable Bitcoin that there would be no taxes and no government interference. The postal service and couriers would be used to cut out to criminal undercurrent of the current on-the-street and illegal business. He set up his site. It became a news story through the website Gawker, and then took off.
At the same time, there is a disgraced police officer who was an effective street cop, but had also become an addict. He had a well publicized incident that had him at an Addiction Centre and later psychiatric help for his demons. He is played by Jason Clarke in this movie. He isn’t fired, but placed with the cyber-security unit at the DEA with all the other computer geeks (no disrespect intended). He hears through a street source that drugs can be purchased through the web and he wants to track it down. His path crosses with Ulbrecht as he tries to gain his confidence. For me, the more intriguing aspect of this story is the Bitcoin. It was the currency of choice for the underworld. At the time, people were transacting in Bitcoin when its value was around $121. Ulbricht took a 10% commission fee for every transaction that took place. When he was arrested in 2013, the federal government seized 144,000 bitcoin. It is believed that the Silk Road commissions from 2011 to 2013 were closer to 600,000 Bitcoin. In mid 2014, the Government auctioned off 30,000 of his coins. All nine auctions went to a venture capitalist for $19M. Bitcoin today is trading at $64,307 USD and those 30,000 Bitcoin are worth $1.9B. And Ulbrecht’s fortune for the 144,000 Bitcoin would be $9.26B!!! Quite remarkable. He was convicted on only a few charges and when you see what happens, if you don’t know the story, I think that you will be shocked. This is a guy who believed in the free economy, not in any way impacted by the Government, yet he lived in modest means, and for all his talk of freedom he moved from place to place and couldn’t enjoy the fruits of his labours. He was always in fear of being arrested. He was a workaholic and that work consumed him. Yes he impacted the world, but at what price? Time and again stories show the drive for brilliance and impact is lost because of other flaws and insecurities. He is serving life sentences. His Mom actively propositioned Donald Trump as President to pardon him. He didn’t. So he remains there. This is an intriguing story moreso than the movie was. The movie was okay, but the subject matter is worthwhile checking into. Bitcoin has become mainstream, with Elon Musk being a major player, but it still smacks of a currency for the underground to me. I had a hockey buddy talk about what he thought the value of a Bitcoin and he was right. He was mining Bitcoin at the time. These people who have made all these riches from Bitcoin might want to investigate how the electrical grid can be boosted to allow all these transactions, and electric cars to take over. For further insight into that, see John Oliver’s piece from Last Week Tonight from last week.