July 27th, 2020

As a follow up to the posting from last week where I noted I had started watching the 1940s era Manhattan which was a dramatization of the creation of the atom bomb by the US authorities.  I finished the first season, and began season 2.   I read however that the characters and stories about them are fiction, except for the names of Albert Einstein and J Robert Oppenheimer.   Key characters in the story like Charlie Isaacs and his wife never existed.   Others on the two teams as well.   This was disappointing news but not altogether surprising.   The drama among the characters just seemed too outlandish.   I have little doubt that there was latent homosexuality and infidelity and other things happening given the number of people cooped up in a site for so long.   Still much of it didn’t seem very plausible.   The end of season 1 still doesn’t have a viable working bomb.  This unending debate about whether or not implosion was even possible rages on.   Interestingly as we know, two bombs were dropped and they were of each type worked on at the site.   Both worked equally well.   I won’t delve further into the merits of utilizing the atomic bombs, but suffice it to say that the desired effect of ending the war in the Pacific was accomplished.    I will continue to watch season 2 (it was cancelled after this season) but I will be a little less enthused.   Incidentally, Harry Lloyd who played spoiled Viserys Targaryen  plays the same type of weasel-like character in this series as in Game of Thrones.

A new release on Netflix was the series called Indian Matchmaker, and it getting some buzz, not all of it is positive.   The premise is pretty straightforward as we have an older East Indian woman who is assisting other East Indian people and their families to find a match/marriage partner.   Arranged marriages are not uncommon in India, and the show brings forward many examples of long term married couples and their stories.   The matchmaker in question has hundreds of families that she is working with, from all around the globe.   We see young people in places like Houston, Colorado, New York, Mumbai, etc.  She is quite the jetsetter to be seeing all of these various people.   No where do they talk about her fees.   She can’t be cheap.  Still with a divorce rate in “love marriages” hovering around 50% one would think that arranged marriages can’t be any worse.   In fact, they could be better.   As a single person, I take solace that there are many around there like me.   The struggles faced by meeting and finding the right person are real no matter where in the world you are, or your station.   I was surprised at her use of biodata forms, astrologers and facial reading people.   So much of all this for these people is fated, and in the stars/signs.  I admit that the facial reading guy who sees a number of her clients was surprisingly good at seeing traits of these people just based on a phone picture.   Now whether or not one can see someone having twins from just a picture is another story.   You have all sorts of characters in this series, for me a couple that stuck out was the female lawyer in Houston, who has a pushy Mom and her own prickly, picky personality.   She seems so set in her ways and not really willing to open herself up to almost anything new.    The other was the young man with the overbearing Mom who dictates all that happens in her household.   The young 25yo man has a younger brother who is engaged, and he is told that he MUST get engaged and be married within the year, to make Mom happy and allow the younger brother to get married himself.   He rationally asks how these two events must be tied together, but all around him side with Mom.   Such pressure on him.   He sees hundreds of profiles and you wonder whether he is just being overly difficult or that he just isn’t ready.  Maybe a little of both.   Sadly, though there are other stories that the viewer doesn’t see finish.  You would think you get to see what the results of the matches are and this dating, but it just isn’t so.   Not even a follow up at the last episode with a review of who was met and what their latest status is (married, still dating or single).   I was also somewhat surprised at the continuation of the separation of duties and attitudes about women.   Our matchmaker can through herself or her colleagues put pressure on women to be subservient to their future husband; they must take a back seat to him and his desires.   I was quite shocked at how bluntly this was put to these independent women, one in particular runs her own online clothing store and is quite successful.  The cultural pressures are substantial, and add to that the pressures of thinking that one might want to have children and for women it is a daunting task.   Never mind the later conversation if you are a single Mom in these communities!   One very pleasant was told that her chances in the Sikh community would be very limited because of her status being divorced and with a child.   There’s nothing quite like turning back the hands of time to the early 1960s for us in North America!!   Everybody in the end has a story.

 

July 20th, 2020

I like Edward Norton, always have from the moment he burst onto the scene in his breakout performance in 1996 with Richard Gere in Primal Fear.  It earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee.   Now at 50yo, he has had some hits and misses.   I wish he would work more.   He has decided in 2019 to write, direct and star in Motherless Brooklyn.   Set in the 50s, it begins with Bruce Willis portraying a private detective who is looking for backup in an upcoming business meeting.   The backup are his two underlings in his detective agency, one played by Norton, who has an excellent memory for detail but also a version of Tourette Syndrome.  Now Norton has played a character with a challenge before, notably in the excellent and underviewed The Score with Robert De Niro.   Here Norton has this affliction, which he can’t control.   It adds some humour every now and then (like with the waitress at a bar) but generally becomes a distraction as it pops up randomly.  The plot deals with corruption at a municipal level with New York City.  Alec Baldwin plays the head of the Bridge Authority who is head of Parks and Bridges, but also given a new appointment as the cleaner of “slums”.   You must pay attention to the plot, but it is also predictable with some characters, like Willis’ wife.   In the end, this is longer than it should be (about 20 minutes).  Other characters like Willem Dafoe add some intrigue, as well as the presence of the female lead looking into the “relocation” aspects but there are various other tangents.   Have we seen other stories about corruption in a city?  Absolutely.   Baldwin plays the bad guy well as he usually does.   He has a group of cronies around him strong arming those who put up a battle against his plans.   There is a speech late by Baldwin where you hear about the building of Central Park back in the day.   He translates this into the activities that he is currently taking.   I can’t recommend this, even though I like the cast (save Willis).

I also watched Harriet, and this stars the ever-rising Cynthia Erivo (who excelled in The Outsider.)   Harriet Tubman was one of the few women involved in the freedom of slaves from the South to the North, like she had freed herself earlier.   With assistance, she managed to walk from her home in South Carolina.   The fact that she decided to turn around and make run after run getting hundreds out.   The true story is compelling and an extraordinary tale of someone committed to freedom.   Her freedom, and the lives of others like her.   This movie resonates more now than it did at the time of its initial release (2019).   Everything really has changed (in truth to be determined), and the hope is that the country which regards itself as the home of freedom (even though it allowed slavery to continue in its Declaration of Independence in 1776, written by slave owner Thomas Jefferson) can find ways to make strides towards true “equal treatment under the law”.   But disregarding the wider big picture for the moment in present day, the movie is a quality performance from an actress who garnered an Oscar nomination for this role.   Sadly Renee Zellwegger won the award, but this is a worthy performance.   Erivo is English, and that may have raised some eyebrows, but it shouldn’t.   She provided an excellent performance of the woman who deserves to have more recognition and notoriety.   People like her, I think, would applaud the efforts now 150 years later to find that freedom the founding fathers were seeking to begin with.

I have begun watching the Starz series Manhattan (2014) which dramatizes the race to build the atomic bomb.  Manhattan refers to the Manhattan Project led by Dr Oppenheimer.   The bombs created and dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan to end the war in the Pacific.   The bombs themselves were nicknamed “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”.   I had not realized that these were two different types of bombs; one was an implosion bomb, the other was uranium gun-type bomb.  The two types were created by different teams within the Manhattan campus.  There is plenty of drama surrounding the people within this campus.  Think of it like The Imitation Game with much personal drama and relationships along with the challenges of creating new under the veil of secrecy.   Rachel Brosnahan stars (before her memorable time in House of Cards, and then The Marvelous Mrs Maisel) and she is really good in all the roles that I have seen her.   Also starring a much older looking Daniel Stern (from Home Alone, and voiceover in Wonder Years).   It is longer than it should be at times (I am on episode 11 of season 1) and there is more to come.  They haven’t even made a bomb yet, as they are still trying to figure out how implosion works.  Issues like being gay, lesbianism, espionage, Jewish etc are all covered.   I will continue to watch.   It’s not as good as The Imitation Game but then again not many things really are.