Category Archives: Film/TV

I watch, love, and hate

TV shows I watched in 2020

TV shows I watched in 2020

The combined effect of spending the majority of the year at home and the family having a Netflix subscription resulted in me watching much more TV shows than previously. Below is an incomplete list of them.

I have seen every available episode of these shows from the very first to the very last

  • Barbaren / Barbarians (Germany, 2020): 6 episodes and there will be a second season
  • Better Call Saul (US, 2015-20): 5 seasons, 10 episode each, awaiting the final season, hopefully out in 2021; Season 5 on Amazon Prime
  • Biohackers (Germany, 2020): 6 episodes and a second season is coming
  • Dark (Germany, 2017-20: 26 episodes, with nice closure
  • Hollywood (USA, 2020): 7 episodes and second season is unlikely
  • La casa de papel / Money Heist (Spain, 2017-20): had “31” episodes (Netflix recut the first half of the series, not developed by then so 31 is an approximate number.) Final season is in the works.
  • Space Force (USA, 2020): 10 episodes, second season coming up
  • Unorthodox (Germany/USA, 2020): 4 episodes, no second season, no matter how many people want it
  • What/If (USA, 2019): 10 episodes, second season is likely, but not yet confirmed.
  • White Lines (UK/Spain, 2020): 10 episodes and then got cancelled.

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You gotta fight for your money; thoughts on “The Laundromat” (USA, 2019, 95 min)

Most people associate glamour with celebrities like movie stars, models and pop singers. The second association is that all these people make a lot of money. These images are reinforced by the (tabloid) media that regularly shares information about how many millions these kinds of people made. We hear far less often about bankers, brokers and other professions related to handling money and wealth. However they make (often not “earn” IMHO) much more than celebrities. (Before someone points out that there are lots of not too rich bankers I need to point out that it is even more so for actors and singers.) 

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Films viewed in 2020

Films viewed in 2020

It’s the 12th time that I share the list of  movies I watched in a given year. I am sure I forgot to note a quite a few movies, but even with these omissions the number is  lower than most previous years’. One reason for this is that in 2020 I watched a lot more TV series that is not on the list.

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Légiók c. film posztere

Thoughts on the movie “Legions” on National Independence Day of Poland

If you want to see amazing pictures and landscapes, I highly recommend the film Legions. Sometimes I was just sitting there in the cinema (yes there, the last day before the cinemas got closed down again due to the quarantine) and my jaw dropped, quite touched by the beauty on the screen. Jaroslaw Szoda, whose name I want remember, did a fantastic job as a cameraman and cinematographer. It is worth watching the film just for the sights of breathtaking Polish landscapes.

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Légiók c. film posztere

Gondolatok a Légiók c. filmről a Lengyel Függetlenség Napján

Ha olyan képeket, tájakat akarsz látni amitől leesik az állad akkor nagyon ajánlom a lengyel Légiók című filmet. Néha csak ültem a moziban (igen ott, pont az utolsó nap a mozik karanténba zárása előtt) és jobbról balra ámultam, egészen meghatódva a gyönyörűségtől. Jaroslaw Szoda, akinek direkt kikerestem a nevét, fantasztikus munkát végzett mint operatőr. Már csak azért is érdemes megnézni a filmet, hogy lélegzetelállító lengyel tájak látványán tudjunk ámuldozni.

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Film-making by targeting; thoughts on “Otherhood ” (USA, 2019, 100 min)

Otherhood film poster

Having a few good one liners and an easily identifiable and acceptable message doesn’t save Otherhood from being a predictable, mediocre film. Let me break this down.

 I have laughed out about 5 times during the movie, which isn’t bad at all. However, the next morning, when I am writing this I don’t remember any single jokes, which is a sign that  they were not that memorable. Here is the one-liner that everyone seems to love from the movie:

Mom: You didn’t call me on Mother’s Day.
Son: I texted you.
Mom: I birthed you.

You see this is cute, but nothing to text home about.

If you just read the short description of the movie you can already guess the message of the film: Moms should let their children grow up, make their own decisions and stop interfering with their children’s lives, although occasional nudging may be helpful. This is a common sense approach, that in the age of helicopter parenting (and then kids staying in the mama-hotel) sometimes gets lost. I am happy to see the idea of parents giving roots and WINGS to their children strengthened; something I identify as a parent with. Like this movie, similar to lots of other American movies, the message is so direct that the viewers have nothing to think about, nothing to “decipher”. I like movies that make me think and not just entertain. This movie did a sufficient  job of the latter but didn’t even come close to satisfying the former function.

In my experience great, original art comes from artists — no matter the field they work in — who has a vision and execute them regardless of the potential audience. Sure, lots of bad art is born the same way. However it is a prerequisite for an outstanding one too. This movie feels the opposite of this concept:  the authors wanted to give something to lots of target groups. Besides the adult mothers of adult sons it also tried to speak to African-Americans, Jews, LGBT people, urbanites, suburbanites… It gave a little something to identify with and create emotional attachment for all these and possible more types of people. In the process they lost focus and it shows. As a result, because there was no way to depict a deep or accurate picture of so many people they ended up using stereotypes of groups.

I don’t regret watching the movie, although it was more like listening, while I was going around the room doing my chores, because it was entertaining enough to run in the background. 

Sidenote: when I checked whether the movie is available on Amazon — it isn’t, although I found its book version — I came across a 2015 book titled “Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness” by Melanie Notkin. It explains how some women who others consider “childfree by choice” are not really so by choice. The reviews are mixed, but it still seems more enlightening as it includes at least some social analysis  on how society discriminates against this group.

IMDB: “A grounded, soulful, celebratory comedy about three mothers and their adult sons. The film explores the stage after motherhood, Otherhood, when you have to redefine your relationship with your children, friends, spouse, and most importantly, yourself.”

Trailer

Screenshot from The Banker

The power of editing; thoughts on “The Banker” (USA, 2020, 2 hr)

The banker could and should appeal to so many different kind of people: 

  • Those who believe in the rugged individualism myth – as this is a story of a person who had a goal and accomplished it through perseverance.
  • Those who enjoy the aesthetic of the 1950’s material culture – as it has beautiful cars, stylish clothes, magnificent buildings and interiors, objects of many kind stunningly shot.
  • Those who are poor – as it can give them hope that it is possible to rise above if you are hardworking and talented.
  • Those who are against racism – as it shows the triumph of an African-American man against systemic racism, although he doesn’t always prevail.
  • Those who enjoy learning about history – as this movie very much is based on a true story even if it took editorial liberties.
  • Feminists – as it shows strong female characters, although it doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test.
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Gabor Mate on authenticity and attachment

Who is a pet anyway? Thoughts on “Jexi” (USA, 2019, 84 min)

Poster for Jexi

People are cats’ pets. At least how it seems from lots of memes. Never been owned by a cat (nor the other way around) I can’t form a personal opinion on the topic. In Jexi, the 2019, often hilarious comedy, a  smartphone enhanced(?) with Artificial Intelligence takes a liking of the phone’s owner to comic and tragic consequences. There are several ways to approach our communal obsessions with our phones. One of the best one is with humor and this light movie does a good job at that.

Another one is how it is done in one of the books I am reading right now. In C. Gockel’s sci fi series, “Archangel” there is a cat-like species, called werfle whose mind is taken over at one point by extremely smart telepathic alien species. Some humans kept werfles as pets. So they thought. Meanwhile the superior aliens living in the werfles considered these very same humans their pets. It is the same in this movie, where the AI is (or wants to be) the dominant in a symbiotic relationship, while the puny human is degraded to a subservient role. Many of us have already become addicted to our phones and turn to it as an emotional coping mechanism. Just a few hours ago in John Kellden’s excellent “Conversation” Facebook group I saw a poignant distillation of this, so I will leave it here: 

There’s two cults in the western world: 
f2f: consumption digital:
consumption of shiny memes
The first cult: an island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, the size of France.
The second cult: a learned helplessness, a social cognition rot, reduced to a like button clicking creature of habit.

Setting is often as important to whether one likes a movie or not as the plot. In this case the outdoor scenes, all shots and depicting gorgeous San Francisco helped to ease this movie into my heart. I happen to have been to San Fran lots of time and love the city as a frequent tourist. Hence every time I saw an iconic location–or even not so iconic, just an average yet typical SF street– I got a little jolt of pleasure. 

A part of my education here was learning about Kid Cudi. I admit I don’t follow modern pop/rap music so I never heard of him. When I first saw his name in the movie I thought they just made up a famous-looking music star for the movie’s sake. Turns out he is real and seems to be really successful, including having sold 16 million records according to his wikipedia page. To learn more about him and close a hole in my pop-culture knowledge I searched on Youtube and watched the first video that came up. It was the “Pursuit of Happiness” from 2009 with close to 200million views. Its lyrics includes these lines: “Everything that shine ain’t always gonna be gold (hey) I’ll be fine once I get it, get it in, I’ll be good”. 

It entails the message of the film:
A, The plot revolves around the pursuit of happiness (through reaching for the impossible and following dreams.)
And B. it is not (through) a shiny object.
OK, message is delivered, even explicitly spelled out at the end in case someone doesn’t want to take the extra step to think even for a second what the movie was about. Now go watch it and have fun.

Buy/watch it on Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray or Prime Video

Official site: IMDB: “A comedy about what can happen when you love your phone more than anything else in your life.”

Trailer:

Scene from Hysteriia with Charlotte Dalrymple (Maggie Gyllenhaal) showing the sink

Handwashing in the age of Hysteria

In the second scene of the 2011 movie Hysteria, set in 1880, an old school doctor confronting a young one over the existence of germs: tiny, invisible things that can make you sick. I heard that there is a TV personality who didn’t wash his hands in 10 years, because he doesn’t believe in invisible things. Amazing, 130 years later some people will opt for willful ignorance even in the smallest matters. I wonder whether he still keeps it up today, when good hygiene could save his life.

Here is a conversation later from the film, verbatim.

Charlotte Dalrymple: Occasionally we sneak in something slightly progressive. Oh…you might like this. Actually look. For example, this is where the children wash their hand. We use soap and boiled water. We do our best to keep the settlement sanitary, but you can’t imagine the filth and the germs.
Mortimer Granville: You know about germs?
Dalrymple: I do read, Doctor.
Granville: I spend years trying to convinced the medical establishment that the hand washing prevent disease and unsuccessfully. And then here you are teaching it to the children. And with great success.
Dalrymple: I know. With the parents is another story. But, eventually the children will teach them themselves.

This month most of us learned the proper way to wash our hands. What else should be teaching to our children with the hope they their children will always know it?

Buy the film on DVD or on BluRay on Amazon or watch it streaming.

IMDB: The truth of how Mortimer Granville devised the invention of the first vibrator in the name of medical science.

Trailer: