Monday, October 28, 2019

Review of 'Same Kind of Different as Me'

Another awful liberal film about race and class in contemporary. Very wealthy couple have a troubled relationship (he's having an affair) but acheive redemption through volunteering at a downtown mission, where they gradually befriend a troubled older black man who has suffered as a result of terrible racist persecution (KKK violence, among other things). They redeem him, he redeems them, and then she gets cancer and dies but everyone is redeemed (including the husband's racist alcoholic father) through her two-dimensional saintliness. Reminded of the Brecht poem "A Bed for the Night".

Watched on Netflix via Chromecast.

Review of 'Seventeen'

Well-made Spanish film about a disturbed young man and his relationships - with his peers (awful), his grandmother (in a home, near-vegetative), his older brother (troubled), and a dog to which the staff at the juvenile facility introduce him (redemptive). Really thoughtful, some unexpected plot twists, and beautiful to look at too.

Watched on Netflix via Chromecast.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Review of 'My Days of Mercy'

Wanted to watch a feel-good cheerful film, and ended up watching this - about the children of a man on death row who attend anti-death penalty execution vigils while hoping that the case against their dad (convicted of stabbing their mum to death) will somehow be overturned by new evidence. Not feel-good at all, despite the Lesbian sex scenes, because the younger of the two daughters strikes up a relationship with a young woman who is a pro-death-penalty campaigner and also attends the vigils to support the executions.

It's a good well-made film, with good acting and a straightforward but well-told story. My overwhelming impression was how awful America is.

How did I end up watching this? The Netflix trailer abstracted a tiny unrepresentative segment of dialogue that implied this was a snappy small-town comedy of manners, and the trailer itself was inserted into a load of others for comedies. Ho hum.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Review of 'Professor Marston and the Wonder Women'

A slow start but a good film about academic psychology, sexual relationships and jealousy, and bondage. Lots of bondage. Professor Marston is a Harvard academic and his wife is a much cleverer but less celebrated Radcliffe academic who can't be given a PhD because she's a woman. They do good work together, including inventing the polygraph, but they lose their jobs because of a scandal involving a threesome with a young woman student.

The prof then explores the nature of dominance and submission in sexual relationships, first in theory and then in practice. He discovers the bondage scene, and then starts to write a comic book that eventually becomes the celebrated Wonder Woman series - I had no idea that there was so much bondage in the original comic. I'd been dimly aware of what I thought was a pornographic parody called 'Blunder Broad' by the filthy comic artist Eric Stanton - I didn't realise that the 'parody' was so close in spirit to the original.

Review of 'Unsheltered' by Barbara Kingsolver

I don't think Barbara Kingsolver has written any bad books - this certainly isn't one. It's a sometimes gruelling story about a family of professional Americans tipped into poverty by entirely normal economic circumstances. The father loses his tenured faculty position when the university he works for shuts down, and ends up at the bottom of the ladder in another, worse-paying college. The mother loses her full-time journalist job on a magazine and has to make do on crumbs of badly-paid freelance work. And suddenly they are living in New Jersey in a crappy old house that is literally falling down, and impossible to heat. The man's old racist Greek-immigrant father lives with them, and is dying slowly and very expensively from a constellation of conditions, and the woman who doesn't like him at all has to manage his illnesses and his treatments, and spend huge amounts of time and energy negotiating with American healthcare.

It's a split narrative novel, so there's a parallel story set in the same neighborhood (with similar crumbling houses) in the mid-nineteenth century, which features a progressive teacher trying to engage his pupils with science despite the opposition of the principal and the town's gangster-boss patron.

And it's all the more poignant in that none of the modern families woes come from the familiar 'villains' of the economic apocalypse. There jobs haven't been offshored, they haven't been replaced by robots or immigrants - they are just the victims of middle-class precariousness. It could happen to anybody, and it does.

There's lots of family dynamics, including the golden-prince son who is a Harvard Business School graduate but has no job and heaps of debt, and the less celebrated 'spiky' daughter who has been living in Cuba, and whose smarts from their and from living at the bottom of society have actually prepared her much better for the world that is coming.

No more without the risk of spoilers, but this is really great - just get it and read it.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Review of Julieta

One of Almodovar's more recent films, and really good - very poignant, almost painful to watch, about the relationship between a mother and daughter, its deterioration, and the effect on the mother of the daughter's disappearance. Unlike many of Almodovar's films this is totally devoid of camp or quirkiness, just great acting and directing. Amazing how well actors Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte managed to look like older and younger versions of the same person - I actually thought it was done with make-up!

Based on three stories by Alice Munro, which I must now read.

Watched on BBC4 in real time, as it was broadcast - can't remember the last time I did that!