Plenty of movies and series to discuss this week, both new and older alike.
In the Same Breath: HBO has released what I think will be the beginning of a number of documentaries related to COVID-19 pandemic. Last night was the beginning with this documentary by a female director of Chinese ancestry, who is married to an American. The story begins chronologically with a trip by the director and her husband and 3 year old child to visit family in Wuhan China for the Chinese New Year back in early 2020. There was some radio discussion about eight workers at a plant who were inprisoned for “spreading rumours about a flu”. Shortly thereafter there was talk about everything “being under control” and then lockdown. Wuhan is a city of 11 million people. I remember a year ago when Covid numbers were put out that the Chinese numbers were extremely low. In Wuhan they showed the official count of deaths at 3,300 roughly. The difference between there and here of course is the central Communist government. The government controls not only the media and the message, they also control the hospitals and the morgues. There is fear on the faces of health care workers that they try to interview about Covid or about people and their loved ones. Later in the program they show the line up of people trying to obtain ashes for their deceased relatives, and the clear indication is that the real numbers of infections and deaths in China are dramatically higher. Confirmation of the worst kept secret. The documentary then shifts to the US, and the actions taken in NYC, which becomes the epicentre of the pandemic in the US. Incidentally there is another documentary by Spike Lee which talks about NYC as the Epicentre from 9/11 to 2021 1/2. It speaks about the City’s handling of the pandemic as well. In this documentary, we are replayed the initial assessment that “this is a flu” and “not to worry” and “it will be gone by April the weather turns nice”. The whole Trump dismissal of it, including those statements made by Dr Fauci who speaks of no need for masks etc. It is damning. Health care workers are interviewed and their stories are heartbreaking. Freezer trucks that are forced to make temporary shelving inside the trucks to accommodate more bodies. People not seeing loved ones. Healthcare worker burn out and stress. Then of course there are the protests and those who believed that it was a hoax. The Chinese government who claims that this failure of democracy shows that they have a superior system. I am left feeling vindicated in my thoughts about China and the pandemic. I am also frustrated how a health issue became a political issue. Thanks Donald Trump and those who turned their back on science. But thanks too for the scientists and doctors who took their marching orders from Trump and his Administration. Because of them, the public were deceived, in both China and the US. No one has clean hands. All suffer the consequences. This pandemic was and continues to be much worse on a global scale because of political pride in systems (democratic or communist) on both sides of the world. Had their been more open and honest communication, perhaps things may have been better. Perhaps. All the while, this shines some light on the issues, what went wrong, failures from all involved and the raw impact on families and people collectively. Well worth watching.
100 Foot Wave: This HBO docuseries ended last night, and I have spoken about it before. For me it was thrilling to watch these athletes surf these massive waves. Garrett is the focal point as the person who initially surfed the highest of these waves and he was supported by the Portugal Tourism Department to bring in the people to Portugal. He was very successful. This episode shows the 2020 Tow Surfing Event where the best of the best big wave surfers and their fans descended onto Nazarre. I admit that I felt it was a bit anti-climactic. From a series of shows that built up to this competition, we see that a dramatic and terrifying accident during the competition meant that one of the early focal points of the series “Cotty” had a huge wave that all the cameras missed. He was deeply disappointed. We also see Garrett as a guy who just can’t stop himself from seeking the waves, and putting himself in harm’s way. Despite the family, despite his age and his injuries, it is just who he is.
Mama: is a 2013 fantasy thriller that stars Jessica Chastain, as well as Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) which I did not know much about until I saw listed on Crave. Initially I saw the name Guillermo del Toro associated with the film I was excited, but he was not directed, and instead Executive Producer. There are elements in the creature that reminds me of his style. For Chastain, she has shorter jet black hair and just doesn’t look herself without her red locks. She plays a woman in a rock band who is dating the brother of a guy who one day has a breakdown and slays his wife, and takes his two young female children into a remote cabin. He while in the cabin meets with an accident. The little girls aren’t found for five years. Bring in Jessica and boyfriend to act as foster parents. The girls are both very wild, having been raised in the woods with little recollection of their time in civilized society. Things happen around them, as there is a presence, an entity, that follows the girls. The girls call her Mama. She is the fantasy part of this and has a backstory that is explained. Much of the rest addresses how the situation can be resolved. The fantasy is the backstory and how Mama is able to move from the cabin to the new home that girls live in. Chastain ends up as the primary caregiver, and you see her building a relationship with the girls. There were typical efforts to illicit screams and jumps. Some were more effective than others. I wasn’t scared, and the arc felt quite familiar. I wasn’t really convinced about Chastain as a rocker, I have to say. Not a movie that you need to seek out.
The Fly: Back in 1986 Canadian David Cronenberg brought this movie forth, which was refreshingly set in Toronto. Jeff Goldblum plays a brilliant physicist who is looking to development teleportation. Geena Davis is a reporter that he takes a liking to, and brags about what he is doing. He sees this as revolutionary, but he is struggling with teleporting living objects. His computer doesn’t seem to know how to deal with the flesh. He works on improving the programming. Meanwhile Davis begins to reciprocate the feelings for Seth, and they begin a relationship. On a night where he was alone, Seth drinks too much and decides that his updated technology is ready for a human experiment and he goes through. He had previously used a baboon with mixed success. An unexpected thing happens and then Seth begins to change. Cronenberg and his production team did an excellent job at the time of the make up and other effects. It still holds up to this day. The Davis and Goldblum relationship seems real because it became real off screen. They ended up being married to one another. It all comes together well with some cool effects, some believable gross aspects and a story that is compelling. I enjoyed it back in the day and feel that it remains good today. Today it likely would have had a lot more computer graphics, but I not sure that it would have made it better. Worth checking out if you come upon it.
Underwater: this 2020 movie stars Kristen Stewart who I had no seen in a film in quite some time. She of course burst onto the scene with the Twilight films and her co-star and love interest in real life Robert Pattinson. She will be playing the role of Princess Diana in the film Spencer to debut at TIFF next month. This movie is a thriller set at the bottom of the ocean. There are mining operations that have been set up there and some strange things are happening. Very early on we see Stewart and an emergency takes place which needs to be addressed. This movie borrowed heavily from other better movies like The Abyss and Alien series. The themes are all there and even Stewart looks a great deal with Ripley in Alien III with the short hair. I won’t go through the plot points because the two film references alone should give some sense as to where this goes. I cannot recommend it, as I just kept seeing the other films as being better. It is quite remarkable to think about being in that hostile environment (which might as well be space) and water that must be strikingly cold, not to mention the pressure! Query whether one would think that any creatures who were living in that environment would need eyes of any kind. There is no light down there. No need to seek this one out either.