September 6, 2021, Labour Day

The Green Knight: I have to admit that I am a fan of all things King Arthur, and Excalibur, the Holy Grail etc. For me, the start was likely Monty Python, but in truth and more particularly John Boorman’s 1981 Excalibur. That film I have watched time after time. Knowing the story well makes Monty Python that much funnier too. So when I had heard about a new film coming out that was an Arthur spin off story, The Green Knight, I was intrigued. The story has its inspiration from the book Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with an unknown author. Dev Patel stars in as Sir Gawain, and I have liked many of his films to date. So when I had a chance to see this, I was ready for some swords, chainmail and swashbuckling. What I got instead, was a disjointed, confusing mess with an equally confusing ending. One that leaves the audience hanging. An aging King Arthur is on the throne with his Queen (already a departure from Excalibur) where he would like to get to know his nephew better. The King is played by the same high pitched, soft spoken actor, Sean Harris from the later Mission Impossible movies. At a gala event, a stranger who looks remarkably like a tree monster, arrives on horseback and challenges any one attending at the round table to fight him and strike a blow, and then after a year return back to him at his castle to have that strike returned. Sir Gawain in attendance immediately volunteers. He is successful (more easily than expected actually) and then is tasked with waiting for the return trip in a year. After a year his begins his journey. Things happen. Some surprises, and then ultimately there is an abrupt ending. I won’t delve to deeply into the story for fear of disclosing too much. Suffice it to say that it is more complex and fuzzy than it is worth. The ending is just a dead stop where you wonder “is that it?” As far as production value, there is a lot of smoke. The armour, horses and sets are believable. Harris is not my King Arthur, nor is there really any visibility for Merlin. Much of the Arthur lore is put to the side. Had the King be called anyone else, then the story falls on it own. Perhaps the Arthur tease raises the bar for the story to heights that it just can’t reach. The book is unknown to me, but having seen this I don’t really have a great deal of motivation to seek it out. I cannot recommend this. I really wish that I could, because I did look forward to it. There must be other stories out there that are worthy of King Arthur and that time (however much I am aware this the main story was all fable to begin with).

Worth: Remarkably and incredibly to me, next Saturday is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Just wow! I remember in detail where I was (the tallest office building in Canada – downtown Toronto’s First Canadian Place) working for a big bank. I was on the 17th floor, and I heard about a plane hitting the WTC. CNN incidentally last night ran again the excellent Fire Fighter documentary that became the 9/11 documentary with a first hand account of the first fire department to be arriving on scene in Tower 1. They have an incredible on the ground shot on the first airliner hitting the Tower. That is backstory. Netflix is now streaming a new film with Michael Keaton playing a legal professor from Georgetown law, who volunteers with the unenviable job (and accepts no compensation for it) of computing compensation claims to the various victims in the tragedy. I have to admit that I am not clear on the justification for this. Shortly after the attack, Congress enacted the Victim Compensation Fund. The idea was to have victims compensated by funds and release their right to litigate against the airlines. It was felt that the airlines could not survive the litigation and that as a result the entire economy could fall. I am skeptical. Only two airlines were directly involved, United and American. Each had two planes involved. From a legal standpoint, I think that perhaps the airline passengers may have a claim against the airline for not acting reasonably to keep them safe. However, all those other victims (those on the ground, in the buildings, first responders etc) have a more difficult challenge. The chain of causation breaks when a terrorist group for the first time hijacks the four planes and attacks the buildings in New York (and elsewhere). But I digress. Keaton is taking a logical, legal approach to compensation based upon past statistics and cases precedent. He believes that he can come up with a formula which could be applied for each victim. Things like salary, marital status, number of offspring etc would be part of the formula. His stated goal is to have 80% of potential victims agree (it ends up being 5500) and take the deal with the government within two years (Dec 2003). Stanley Tucci plays a man who lost his wife in the attacks. He sees the formula approach as flawed. He sets up a website and garners support for his belief that the Keaton team isn’t dealing with people justly. Keaton in the early days makes an initial presentation to victims, and it doesn’t go well. He may have the law, and numbers on his side, but the victims have raw emotion and passionate stories. Keaton has a team that takes the interviews with each of the victims. Keaton’s team struggles with the power of the stories. Time goes by and he isn’t very successful. What you see are stories from the victims which are of course heart wrenching. What they don’t tell you, until the end was the amount of money that was in play. Nor do they tell you about the source of the funds, which presumably is the American public, as opposed to the airlines who really should be footing most of the bill. There are heroes and villains. There are money-grubbing lawyers playing angles, as well as poor people thankful for anything that they can get. Is this a compelling story? Well, it is interesting. It surprises me to hear the amount involved. I wonder whether the US government would then seek damages from another government (like Pakistan) for what they paid out. It also makes one wonder what the pay out would be for Covid-19 by the Chinese government for the people of Wuhan? Or what the Russian government would pay for those in Chernobyl? We partially know the Chinese answer from that latest documentary Last Breath where $100 extra was paid to the father whose son died. Incidentally this lawyer and his firm have been involved with many other such funds for other tragedies. If the subject matter is interesting to you, then this would be worth seeing.