June 27, 2022

Gaslit:  To be “gaslit” is to have those around you question your sanity and your knowledge of the truth as you see it through psychological manipulation.   This series with an excellent cast, revolved around the 1972 break in at Watergate.  The characters are familiar to anyone who has followed the fall of President Nixon.  It is a study in a man who believed in the absolute power in his office.   Although it seems in hindsight to have admitted a mistake and then sought forgiveness, Nixon doubled down in his efforts to hide the deception and underlying scheme to discredit the bumbling Democrats.  Julia Roberts as John Mitchell’s socialite wife, is the target of being gaslit.   She hears, she pays attention and knows something off was happening for that break in.  Yet in the following weeks and months she is isolated and made to feel less than assured.  Her motives, her family background, steady drinking all conspire to paint her as the “crazy woman”. 

John Dean comes across more favourably in the end, as history will attest, with the determination of his new wife Maureen.  She keeps his together with a vision of how he can be seen as more than just another pawn doing the President’s bidding. 

G Gordon Liddy is a person with an intense, undying loyalty that paints absolutely everything that he does.  He is a guy who views the world in absolutes; good and bad, loyalty and betrayal, faith and rudderless.  His time in prison shows a great deal about his character. 

I enjoyed this series and can recommend.  With a more divided political climate over the past 50 years it can speak to Trump politics and the division that continues to split the United States.  Roe v Wade is overturned this past week and the States will divide even further. 

The River Runner:  this documentary tells the story of a young American kayaker, Scott Lindgren.  He didn’t start that way, growing up in a divorced household in a tough neighborhood outside LA. He and his brother by chance learned how to paddle and guide tours.  The ultimate was to get into the kayaks which were fast and nimble.   Much like the individual sport of surfing, the key in kayaking isn’t just doing amazing things in your boat but being able to film the acts and share them.  Buddy and brother buy a camera and start filming the kayaking that they are doing on more and more intense rivers.   Rapids are classified in a 6-level scale with the highest being a 6. These two routinely are attacking more and more dangerous rapids.  A close friend dies while on one of these rivers.  It sends a shock to the brothers. 
The goal becomes to run the four rivers that run from a peak in the Himalayas called Mount Kailash.  The story unfolds from there with a twist that was unexpected.   Lessons are learned and the brothers grow in unexpected ways.   It is interesting having finished a white water rafting trip to see just how more intense these rapids are than those I had just ridden.   It is humbling to see the power of nature in the elements that these kayakers deal with – like
with extreme water temperatures.  I paddled in 5c.  It is cold on the hands even with a wet suit on.   These guys pioneered the extreme rapids and filming like the 100 foot wave did.  Well worth the viewing on Netflix. 

Jimmy Carr:  I have watched a couple comedy specials with British comic Jimmy Carr.  He is funny. He has some fun play on words.  He is crude. Politically incorrect at times in the same way that other comics like Ricky Gervais would say they are not professing certain attitudes but they are saying as a joke.  Nothing more.  They can offend absolutely.  But they seem to be equal opportunity offenders.   No one seems safe.  But for a lighter piece of entertainment he is fun and brings a smile to my face anyway. 

May 9th, 2022

The Survivor: Ben Foster stars in this newly released film. It is the story of Auschwitz survivor Harry Haft, who boxed his way while in the concentration camp to stay alive. He later after the war was a boxer professionally with modest success, but he did fight the great, undefeated Rocky Marciano. 43 of Marciano’s 49 fights were won by Knock Out. Harry was not that good. But this really isn’t a boxing movie. It is a movie about Harry surviving, through any means necessary. Then dealing with the aftermath in his life, and during, of the choices that he has made. Early in the film, quite by chance a German officer notes Harry fighting abilties and then decides that he can protect him, and make money off of him with betting on fights against other Jewish inmates. These bare fisted matches lasted until one pugilist went down and couldn’t continue. Harry wins, in fights where the loser is shot on this spot. Terrifying and incredible. Harry has to deal with this pressure, but also the scorn of his own people. They resent the fact that he fought and defeated men who were then executed. He became the executioner of sorts to these people. Little are they thinking that he is simply trying to survive in horrendous circumstances. Meanwhile, in his personal life, he was separated from his girlfriend during the war and he had no idea if she was living or dead. Memories of her, and getting back to her, were a driving force in his will to survive. Later after the war, he meets up with a woman while looking for any work possible. But his memories and thoughts of this girlfriend still linger. He suffers from PTSD, with vivid images of atrocities in which he saw first hand. But he seems to move on with his life, a marriage with kids and a boxing match that made a name for himself. Stories like these are fascinating to watch, because they are a glimpse into a horrific past. Tremendous empathy is created for a man who had impossible choices to make, with guilt that would shatter lesser men. He has a loving wife, played by Vicky Krieps (also in Phantom Thread) who loves and supports him but sees the pain that he has endured. She also suffers. This isn’t a feel good movie, but it one to experience. No Holocaust-related movie will be uplifting and joyful since the subject matter and timing is so terrifying. However, survivors and their stories should be told. In this tale, people around Harry would tell him NOT to speak of his history, bacause “no one is interested in that”. Perhaps they felt that it would bring shame to Harry or make people look upon him as that executioner. I am glad that he decided to share with a local newspaper man. Because of this he was able to bring his life around full circle addressing some of the hurt that he experienced. Ben Foster does an excellent job of bringing this bloody tale to light. His eyes say so much as Harry struggles, but there is a fierceness too. A rage that he can channel which allows him to carry out what needs to be done. Well worth watching.

Gaslit: I watched a couple more episodes of Gaslit last night. The Julia Roberts character was locked into her hotel room, and not allowed out for a period of time against her will. The Watergate perpetrators are shown to be the ragtag, poorly organized lot that many suspected that they were. John Dean continues to take hits as this somewhat dazed and confused young lawyer who despite seeing the challenges in what he is asked to do, seems to set out to do them anyway. Yet fate can step in for this series and keep his hands relatively clean for a guy who comes across as more than a little scattered. It is not a look which matches my previous ideas of the eventual Legal Counsel to the President. It is interesting theatre. More to come.

Julia: Continues to be fun as Julia becomes more famous and her shows are helping to support the entire PBS enterprise in Boston. Sarah Lancashire channel Julia Child well verbally, but she is prettier than the Julia who was on TV. I can’t help but seeing a little bit of John Lithgow from The World According to Garp in her.

John Lithgow in The World According to Garp
Sarah Lancashire as Julia Child

What amazes me about Julia is her energy, and all the projects that she has going on at once. She isn’t a spring chicken when her fame took off. She was writing cook books, doing her show and managing her own house. This series is a good insight into her life as the TV personna began to take off.

May 2nd, 2022

The Book of Boba Fett: I finally finished watching this series with the hopes that it would be getting better. From the first episode where we see the resurrection from the dead for the lead character, Boba Fett it was straining the levels of possibility. Boba Fett really was a minor character in the original Star Wars world and he died in one of the silliest ways, his engine packed being knocked by Han Salo (who can’t see well) and he jets off the side of Jabba’s Sail Barge and drops into the sarlacc pit. Weak. But we see how, incredibly, he emerges from this unpleasant death and is saved by the tuskan raiders. By the final couple episodes, this series, or ahem “book” converges with the Mandalorian to have he reintroduced. The Mandalorian announces that he needs to go somewhere and he jets off to another planet to track down Baby Yoda (aka Grogu). On this planet a very young looking Luke, all CGI, is meditating with the young Grogu. Grogu is cute and all, but it would be helpful if he could speak. I pause here to point out that in Luke setting up this Jedi School where he would be the teacher, he is revealing that being a Jedi is a learned skill. Contrary to the entire films surrounding Rey, where she had an inate ability with the Force, Grogu is learning the skills that he will require. The Mandalorian comes to visit to drop off a gift. A choice is provided to Grogu. What did this all mean in the grand scheme of things? Very little. It was an unnecessary side story trying really hard to find a thread of this nonsense and how it fits into the original series, since it is set almost immediately after Return of the Jedi. Ah, but then it has elements of spaghetti westerns with outlaws and gunfights with the local sherriff and a bad guy, as well as Dune, with some spice trade on planet (strange as it was never brought forward as an issue before while Luke was there) and Godzilla vs Kong with incredibly a Rancor. Go figure! So in short, it didn’t get any better. When I had heard that a young Luke was going to make an appearance, I wondered where they would take it. Now I know, and I wish I hadn’t. I never bought into Boba Fett as a gangster figure, vying to take over Jabba the Hutt’s territory. That was a central part to this. In the end, this isn’t must see Star Wars material. It reminds me of the cartoon Clone Wars that you can take or leave. Coming later this month is Ewan Mcgregor returning as Obi Wan Kenobi and the return of Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader. I cannot recemmend this mess, and in fact I would actively avoid it if you are able.

Gaslit: Julia Roberts and an unrecognizeable Sean Penn star as the Watergate era couple John and Martha Mitchell in this new series on Crave. It surrounds the events around the 1972 Watergate break in, a turning point in American politics where the then-President Nixon resigned as a result of this botched attempt to break into the Democratic National Party offices to find dirt on the party for the upcoming re-election of Nixon Administration. John Mitchell was the Attorney General at the time of the break in. His wife Martha was a known socialite. My knowledge of Watergate largely comes from reading and writing on Blind Ambition by John Dean, and All The President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It is familiar territory in terms of the players, but this is showing in a different light. This is on Sunday nights and after watching the first episode I was googling these figures of the Mitchells to get some more background. It seems that Martha was an interesting figure who was a little unpredictable. The powers that be, like Pat Nixon kept her at arm’s length. But she liked attention and sought it out, and was uncomfortable when her husband was being secretive. The entire series hasn’t been released, and I have only seen two episodes but it is interesting to watch. I had always had a higher opinion of John Dean. Dan Stevens plays him here as a bit more of a kiss ass, bumbling wanna-be insider who was willing to do whatever was necessary for the President. He worked for Mitchell who pulled the strings. Meanwhile he meets up with flight attendant Maureen who is another of the intriguing characters who is politically opposed to Nixon and his administration, but likes the idea of being close to power. Dean pursues her with determination. She is played by Betty Gilpin of GLOW fame. I will continue to watch.

The Dropout: Amanda Seyfriend stars playing disgraced Silicon Valley fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos. I have only watched the first episode of this eight episode series. On the face of it, I am not sure that I can invest almost eight hours into this story. She went to Stanford briefly, her Dad back in Texas was part of Enron, and she wanted “to become a billionaire”. It seemed along the way that she wanted to skip the steps required to attain the end goal. But there were smarts, and unbridled ambition. She wanted to make something of herself. At the age of 19, she was looking to enter into graduate level programs while still an undergrad. This series will live and die on whether you believe the work of Seyfriend, and she is good. Kate McKinnon was originally slated to play the lead role but bowed out without any explanation. You can see the beginnings of her start with this first episode. She meets up with Sunny Balwali played by Naveen Andrews when she is learning Chinese in China, and he a much older successful business man who had sold his software company and wanted to learn Mandarin. I will continue to watch a couple more episodes to see if this can hold my attention. I would feel better about this if it was fewer episodes, but then again it may surprise. With the real life Elizabeth Holmes on trial at the same time this can provide some background into some of the details of this ongoing saga. The lessons to be learned obviously are that people and companies are not always what they seem, ironically she came from a family involved in Enron, but other companies like Bre-Ex, the gold fraudsters also come to mind. Caveat emptor when buying stock and investing money!!

https://www.imdb.com/video/vi3293233945?listId=ls025720609?ref_=ext_shr_lnk