“Downsizing”: Go get small

Downsizing”, directed and written by Alexander Payne (with Jim Taylor) seems like a modern telling of Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, at least the Lilliputian part, with the same purpose, to poke fun at the way our political systems neglect global problems.

Some time soon a scientist in Norway discovers a way to “downsize” almost any organism by a mass of about 2500:1 with a single injection and heat chamber treatment. Soon companies are offering it to people with enough money, and setting aside “model train” communities around the world, somewhat hidden or perhaps “Under the Dome”, or perhaps like The Truman Show. It’s a way to save the planet from overpopulation (although the film doesn’t mention the whole problem of “the right babies” going along with population demographics).

Matt Damon plays an occupational therapist Paul Safranek working in Omaha.  He has lost out on the chance to go to medical school because he had to care for his mother. One day he and his wife see a former boss (Jason Sudeikis) like a doll on a table, and Paul asked why did you “go get small.” Pretty soon Paul and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) visit Leisureland in New Mexico (having seen the small people in a box on the flight down) and take the sales pitch. They can live like millionaires.

Paul takes the bait.  The scenes tracing the medical “downsizings” are scary enough.  Paul’s body hair is removed as well as the usual Army buzz cut, and his teeth are pulled.  The actual downsizing chamber part takes only a few minutes.  Paul wakes up, bald everywhere like a chemo patient and checks his private parts.  Then he gets dental implants with microteeth (because they don’t shrink and could cause his head to explode).  I’ve had implants myself, and companies like Clear Choice must be laughing at this.  Then Paul finds out that Audrey bailed out of the procedure and wants to divorce him.

The hair grows back, fortunately. A year later, after downsizing to an apartment on Leisureland and starting to date single moms, and after hearing about the political consequences of downsizing in the media, specifically the surreptitious trafficking of downsized immigrants (despite travel bans!) Paul finds out, from a housekeeper (Ngoc Lan Tran) that immigrants like her live in “barrios” for downsized undocumented immigrants.

As with his mom, Paul is very susceptible to moral pressure to give direct service to those in need, and finds himself as a “doctor” working in the barrio. Then the movie takes a turn to Norway, as a neighbor (Christoph Waltz) takes Paul on a trip to Norway to see the original colony.

And here comes the other political consequence: the Earth has reached its tipping point with the chain release of methane gas, so the little people in Norway have set up a “Noah’s arc” underground. Indeed, will the “normal people” become “the Leftovers”?

I did go through my own downsizing in a real estate sense, from inherited house to condo, recently. And I had full dental implants in 2013.  I have yet to undergo a forced shaving.

Also, ponder the fact that certain big cats underwent downsizing thousands of years ago and became the domestic cats, one of the planets most successful mammals. Sometimes it pays to “go small”.

There was a short film with another Marriott “Storybooked” artist, this time sculptor Felix Semper, who visits San Sebastian, Spain (I visited it in 2001), in the Basque area, and then Barcelona, which is dealing with a new Catalan separatist vote today.

La Concha Bay in San Sebastian (wiki).

Name:  “Downsizing”
Director, writer:  Alexander Payne
Released:  2017/12/21
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/12/22
Length:  135
Rating:  R
Companies:  Paramount (independent)
Link:  official

(Posted: Friday, December 22, 2017 at 11:15 PM EST)

 

“Journey from Invisibility to Visibility” covers a lot more than women over 60

The book “Journey from Invisibility to Visibility: A Guide for Women 60 and Beyond”, by Gail K. Harris, Marilyn C. Lesser, and Cynthia T. Soloway, turns out to be a broad discussion of family values and roles as they pertain to individual identity at all stages of life, not just “the afternoon” of life, where 60 is the new 40.

The book is filled with very long quoted inserts of personal accounts, and with spaces for note taking and review, like a guide or handbook.  That isn’t my own particular interest in the way I write my own books.  But at a certain level I can see how some people believe they would help the books to sell.

The book presents Erikson’s “phases” in the growth of individual identity as they emerge in childhood and go into adolescence and adulthood.  These might be compared to other books that examine how consciousness emerges (“I Am a Strange Loop”). As life progresses, new stages emerge, along with the ability to recall earlier formations of the self right out of space-time.

The book also pays a lot of heed to the way gender roles have evolved over the past fifty years.  It is quite frank about the fact that women (and men) generally didn’t get to choose their missions in life the way millennials insist on today.  The fact that women – and men – find independent meaning out of family is seen as a challenge to those who are more vertically socialized. The authors give an anecdote of a woman who was shocked at the success of her middle-aged son without marriage, and without concern over who would take care of him in old age.

Old social norms then meant channeling sexuality to become attached to adaptive family roles.

The book starts with a long rhymed poem in 4-line verse “A Woman’s Perspective”, by GW.

Author: Harris, Lesse, Soloway
Title, Subtitle: “Journey from Invisibility to Visibility: A Guide for Women over 60 and Beyond”
publication date 2017.  I received a review copy
ISBN 978-1534751897
Publication: Amazon Create Space (N. Charleston, SC) 373 pages, 9 chapters, paper, endnotes
Link: see Amazon   Or review site.

(Posted: Tuesday, December 19, 2017 at 1 AM EST)

“Lady Bird” is someone else besides LBJ’s spouse

Lady Bird” (directed by Greta Gerwig) does not refer to LBJ’s First Lady, who though everything was “so good”.

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”) is a senior in Catholic high school, and is growing up in a working class family in Sacramento, CA.  Dad (Tracy Letts) has lost his job, after the parents took on more mortgage debt to send their kids to Catholic school.  Mom (Laurie Metcalf) chides Christine on leaving her room and clothes a mess after she goes out, saying that potential employers for dad get a bad impression when she is sloppy, even at home.

Sister Sarah (Lois Smith) encourages Christine to get into legitimate school activities, including the school musical (it’s not “The Sunbonnet Girl”) or play (it’s not “Wise Guys”). Improve her chances to get into college, as her grades are mediocre.  She even negotiates with the appealing young male algebra teacher (Jake McDorman) when he loses his grade book (a catastrophe for a teacher).

In drama class, she encounters interesting acting exercises, such as being the first to cry (sounds like “The Ninth Street Center” earlier in my own life  — “did you cry about it?”  “Why not?”  Oct. 18, 1974, a day of confrontation in my own life).  But the she meets the star senior of the class, Danny O’Neill, played by the lanky Lucas Hedges.  O’Neill sounds like a proper Irish Catholic name, but Lucas is, as in a few other films, presented as a kind of Smallville-teen Clark Kent looking for powers, ready to save everybody.  Danny (aka Lucas) dates her, and is so properly respectful when they look up at the stars.  But, as in “The Zero Theorem”, Lucas (who has done juggling on Jimmy Kimmel) is “nobody’s tool”  Christine sees him making out with another young man at a party, and soon confronts him that he is gay, a scene where Danny does cry.  Bur Danny really is better than everyone else (even if, in a way, Shaun Murphy on “The Good Doctor” is likewise.)

So Christine dates the next best boy, Kyle (Timothy Chalamet), who admits he is not a virgin. The intimate scenes with him are intriguing and well done and make Kyle interesting.

Then, Lady Bird starts getting her college application letters.  Rejections, and finally a wait list.  But she finally gets into a college in New York School.  After her tearful sendoff, she meets another (truly heterosexual and less than superman) boy friend and gets into trouble with underage drinking, winding up in the emergency room.  But finally, everything is all right.

The film is not all that impressive technically, being mostly indoors, with a few shots of Sacramento commercial highlights and hangouts. The sound track sounded a little muddy where I saw it.

Sacramento downtown (wiki). I was last there in 1995.  The immediate countryside is flat, as it is part of the San Joaquin Valley.  My own picture is from the Texas Hill Country, maybe not too far from the original Lady Bird’s ranch.

Name: “Lady Bird”
Director, writer:  Greta Gerwig
Released:  2017/11
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/11/21, fair crowd, late evening
Length:  94
Rating:  R
Companies:  A24
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017 at 2:45 PM EST)

“The Big Sick”: romantic comedy about caregiving covers Muslim assimilation

The Big Sick”, directed by Michael Showalter, written by comedian Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, does, even as a romantic medical comedy (if there is such a thing) lay out the issue of assimilation for religious minorities, especially Muslims.

Kumali, playing himself as having come with his parents as a little boy from Pakistan, does comedy gigs at Chicago nightclubs, more or less on Rush Street. His more conservative but well assimilated Muslim parents urge him to go to law school and become respectable.

Kumali falls in love with a (Gentile) girl Emily (Zoe Kazan), and they start sleeping together.  One day Emily twists her ankle in a supermarket, and a few days later is in a medical coma with what looks like a life-threatening opportunistic pneumonia.  Kumali is the only one present until family arrives and pretends to be the husband.  The doctor asks if she has HIV, which could mean that Kumali has been exposed to AIDS himself. (Yes, heterosexuals can spread it.)

But it turns out that Emily has an unusual automimmune disorder, related to genetics (and probably an earlier infection like mono).  Eventually she pulls through, and the end of the film will deal with whether they still have a relationship.

The film presents a few social issue confrontations. Early in the film, when Emily shouts out at him, he scolds her for harassing a  comedian, which is considered rude behavior in comedy clubs.  (Ask Kate Clinton, whom I have watched on Netflix.)  Nevertheless, that helps start the relationship.

While Emily is in the hospital, a caricature of a while nationalist and “Trump supporter” harasses Kmali in the club as a recruiter for “ISIS”.  The boorish troll gets tossed by security, but not before he is told he is  “bad person”, part of Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”.

Then there is the scene where Kumali is confronted by his parents.  Why doesn’t he think about his family instead of himself, they say.  Why is an arranged marriage to a Muslim girl not god enough for him?  Why won’t he grow his beard?  (He looks quite handsome and charismatic as he is, clean-shaven but with his hairy body;  most middle Eastern people are actually “white”, a fact that gets lost on a lot of people.)  Why won’t he kneel and pray five times a day facing Mecca?  Kumali does not such formality is necessary to have the personal faith.

I worked in I.T. or 30 years, and I always encountered software people from India and Pakistan. Until 9/11, nobody thought about religion in the office.  Everyone was assimilated. The parents are shown as well off, with beautiful Islamic interior decorations and art work in the house, and well assimilated into American capitalism and business.

At the end, Kumali moves to New York to start in a new club, and Emily has to make a choice.

Chicago picture (wiki).

There was a short film called “Murphy” about a boy, a dog and an animation in the pre-show (M2M).

Name: The Big Sick
Director, writer:  Michael Showalter, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/9/10
Length:  120
Rating:  R
Companies:  Amazon Studios, Lionsgate, Apatow
Link:  official

(Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017m at 12:30 PM EDT)

Nathaniel Frank’s encyclopedia history of LGBT marriage equality

I’ve covered some of the argumentation about gay marriage in a review of a film about it here July 5.  But an encyclopedia-like book like Nathaniel Frank’s “Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America” (2017) can cover a lot more detail than a documentary film or video. Still, this particular issue seems to have both sides talking at or past one another, playing with the subtleties of language itself, like in “Paul’s” Youtube videos.

I have to admit  some distraction.  I had to finish reading the last chapter on Obergefell and then the philosophical Epilogue (Arnold Bax-like) just as the news exploded this morning with Donald Trump’s edict by twitter banning transgender troops from the military.  Different topic (I’ll come back to the military thing soon with another post) – and indeed a marriage with a transgender person can turn into a straight marriage but without the possibility of procreation, exactly like a heterosexual marriage when the woman is past menopause.  I guess that shows partly why tying marriage to procreation gets so problematic.

At the very beginning, Frank says that marriage law is important by indirection:  logically, those who are not married or do not have the benefits of marriage can be excluded from some of society’s benefits as a consequence of mere logic.  In fact, that generally describes how things were in my own life in a world that (until very recently) where being married usually meant having minor dependents that one had sired – but it didn’t always mean that.  And single people and same-sex couples have always had dependents.  But someone without dependents can find his life disrupted by the needs of others anyway – as I found out with my own eldercare situation. There is a “dynamic imbalance” in life (like in a chess position, say a Sicilian) between having fewer responsibilities and more disposable income, and at the same time being less welcome in some situations,

The debate over “gay marriage” has become sometimes interchangeable with “gay rights” or “equality”.  Or let’s say “the right to marry” is a tricky idea.  As a logical matter, anyone has the same “right” to marry a consenting adult member of the opposite gender (when gender is binary), but not the same capability to procreate or even enjoy penetrative heterosexual activity in a relationship.  Frank talks about discussions about marriage as early as 1963, and then about the Baker case in Minnesota in the early 1970s.  Frank also explains how marriage became a focus (among gay “activists”) as to whether gay people should assimilate (and share risks and responsibilities, including serving in  the military) or resist. Did liberation mean walling off the outside world and creating your own (like in the East Village and the Ninth Street Center, with its polarity theory, in the 1970s)?

Indeed, overseas, “gay marriage” as been illogically comingled with gay rights in general, as in Nigeria with its draconian law in 2013.

Frank indeed covers the history of gay rights in general, including Stonewall, Anita Bryant, the Moscone-Milk assassination in San Francisco in 1978, the Briggs Initiative in California that could have banned gay teachers (1978), the AIDS crisis and Reagan’s indifference, the sodomy law litigation (Hardwick v. Bowers in 1986 and Lawrence v. Texas in 2003), and the history of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the military.  In the 1990s, particularly in Hawaii, debate on gay marriage for its own sake as a marker for personal equality in general, started to develop, even as cases like Romer v. Evans (Colorado Amendment 2) grew.  Then, of course, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, under political pressure.  Frank presents the 90s as more negative for gay people than it really was for me. Frank gives many side anecdotes that are important for other issues:  Dan Choi and don’t ask don’t tell as a valued Arabic translator needed for intelligence purposes; the fact that one of the important marriage cases involved a person who died of ALS;  the male couple in Florida who took care of foster kids with HIV.

Then , in the 2000s, the cascade of litigation started, with Massachusetts in 2004, leading eventually to Obergefell, with many steps along the way.  These included the idea that you could encourage the states to go their own way and experiment first, before solving it federally, although then you had the Full Faith and Credit issue (to be resolved in Obergefell).  Along the way came Gavin Newsome’s marriage day, and then the whole Proposition 8 saga in California.

Frank has a few juicy quotes that show how gay marriage became a cover for a bigger question about hyperindividualism and sexuality.  On p. 236 he refers to the risk that the “gradual transformation of marriage from a pro-child societal institution into a private relationship designed simply to provide adult couples with what plaintiffs say is personal fulfillment.  It was a sinister echo of the old canard that homosexuality was primarily about indulging individual selfishness, while somehow heterosexual pairing was about contributing to the greater good.”  When was this canard actually stated?  Is the greater good to be found in protective courtship and doting?  It strikes me that this is like a three-lane highway in Virginia (indeed, Marshall-Newman, 2006): it can be more challenging to raise adopted kids in a same-sex relationship that survives a few decades of aging than a conventionally heterosexual one with biological children.  If marriage is expanded to include relationships with no penetrative complementarity, will heterosexuals decide that it isn’t important to marry before having kids?  Indeed, the record so far is that gay marriage does not encourage heterosexual divorce or discourage heterosexual marriage.  (Baseball player Bryce Harper beamed his Mormon heterosexual wedding celebration on Superbowl Sunday on Facebook.)    Later, on p. 349 (in a chapter on Obergefel there appears, “While defenders of gay marriage bans in 2015 did all they could to avoid appearing anti-gay, the notion that letting gays marry would transform the institution from being ‘child-centric’ to ‘adult-centric’ fit squarely in the tradition of demonizing gay people as selfish and indulgent, and gay rights as the triumph of a narcissistic culture over a responsible and temperate one committed to the common good.”

In 2010, Nathaniel Frank had published “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America” through St. Martins, about nine months before Congress approved the gradual dismantling of “don’t ask don’t tell”, the certification of which was completed in September 2011.

Related post on my “Do Ask Do Tell Notes”.

Legacy movie reviews about Proposition 8:  “The Case Against 8” (2014); “8: The Mormon Proposition

Author: Nathaniel Frank
Title, Subtitle: Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-06774737228
Publication: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 441 pages, hardcover, 16 chapters, Epilogue
Link: Author

(Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 2 PM EDT)

“The Matchbreaker”: the comic antithesis of the next best thing to unrealistic romantic fantasy

If you’re 74 years old, it’s generally not too appropriate to expect an intimate relationship with a 21 year old, however legal.  My own mother used to say (back in 2000, when I was 57) that even 30 was too young for me, even for “friendship”.  So what’s the next best thing?  To play match maker, as “Uncle Bill”, on Facebook and Twitter.  Yes, I’ve done that.  I know of much younger men who should meet each other.   Sorry, I don’t use Snapchat, although there is a lot of snappy smartphone chat in this film.

This is, “The Matchbreaker”, directed by Caleb Vetter. Wesley Elder (sounds LDS-like) plays the energetic, articulate, socially charismatic Ethan Cooper (Wesley also helped write the script and story). He’s skinny, cis-male, and hairy chested.  I could say that this comedy is “Milo” for straight people. He gets fired by giving too much away to customers as a computer tech in a store that looks like Best Buy (I think of the Nerd Herd in the store Buy More in the old NBC series “Chuck” where Zachary Levi plays a spy disguised as a repair techie).

So Ethan goes into business for himself, somewhat by accident, as a matchbreaker.  Parents hire him to break up relationships of their teen kids (first daughters and then sons too) by double-dating them and causing his clients to make faux pas.  Like in one case, a gawky male (Olan Rogers) isn’t able to jump off a river boat to save a girl who jumped in.  It’s all sexist and chauvinistic.  Ethan has a best friend and roomie played by Osric Chau as part of a tag team.

The film doesn’t have the outrageous social setups that made sitcoms in the 1950s funny, but that may be what it needed, rather than playing itself as a Shakespeare-inspired comedy.  Eventually, he’ll be exposed in a comic near-finale (rather like “All’s Well that Ends Well”) and face the idea he could lose his own girl friend (Christina Grimmie), an only half-willing accomplice.

The film is shot in “KCMO” – Kansas City, Missouri, with many spectacular shots of downtown, all the way out to the famous shopping malls (the Country Club Plaza, south of downtown, near most of the bars), with some scenes on the Kansas site, and some scenes in Leavenworth, KS.  I was last in the area in the summer of 2006 but I know the area well because I earned my MA in Mathematics in 1968 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.  Army service followed.  I would have liked to have a scene a Royals Kauffman Stadium (been there once).

Downtown KCMO wiki

Kaufman Stadium wiki

Leavenworth wiki

Picture: Kansas City Star plant, downtown KCMO, my trip, 2006.

Name: The Matchbreaker
Director, writer:  Caleb Vetter, Wesley Elder
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant, 2017/7/19
Length: 94
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Stadium Films
Link:  official

(Posted on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 5:30 PM EDT)

Tyler Cowen: “The Complacent Class” waits for that knock on the door, maybe

Tyler Cowen, somewhat conservative economist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and a New Jersey state chess champion, has a new and brief book “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream”.

Cowen believes in a cyclical behavior of peoples throughout history.  When a major culture, such as the U.S., becomes more stable and “safer”, people innovate less, and wealthier or better-off people become more insular.  It becomes harder for less fortunate people to participate meaningfully in the system and to advance.  I advanced this idea myself in my own “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book (2014).  That tends to lead ultimately to breakdowns and new cycles of unrest and instability.  Although, actually, the uncertainty is generated by shortsighted behavior by the better-off, as we saw with the 2008 financial crisis, where the “rich” goaded the “poor” into taking on debts they could not pay back (the subprime scandal).

I can relate to this personally.  I did get an “inheritance” at the end of 2010, so I have kept on writing without demanding much compensation for it.  Otherwise, I might have more incentive to take risks and create “real businesses” that can actually employ others.  Or I might have more incentive to have a bigger personal stake in both “other people’s causes” and in actual volunteer efforts (and be willing to demonstrate and sometimes take other people’s bullets).

That fits into the idea of populism and anti-elitism that helped Donald Trump win the election and helped Britain leave the EU.

Cowen does attribute some of today’s complacency to the Internet, and the way it can lead to people of like minds to clump together and ignore larger truths.  This can become expressed in “assortative matching”  even in dating (like using fitbit watch data in real time) and marriage, but it can also lead to aggregations of fake news that can sway politics.

The Internet also tends to make some people less interested in the physical world, as he notes by talking about how some people used to collect records and CD’s of classical music (as I did) but now can depend on the Cloud. Economically, the use of “free” content is a mixed bag, as it gives more people a chance to be heard (as it did for me), but makes it harder for many people to make a real living at it (outside of the idea of “Make the A-List”).

He also notes that the level of violence and rebellion has been greater in the past (like the 1960s and early 1970s) than now, but that, as the Black Lives Matter movement (in response to police profiling) shows, the extreme indignation of some people can make this kind of energy come back, and burst into the lives of the sheltered.

He often mentions gay rights, going back to Stonewall in 1969, which was pretty energetic.  He gives a nod to gay conservative writer Andrew Sullivan, and notes that gay marriage or abstract equality was not particularly compelling as an idea until after Y2K.

It was easier in the past for someone with “nothing” too work him or herself into wealth that it is today.  He notes that even in authoritarian countries like China, it is easier for some people to do this today than it is in the U.S., where people are no longer as “hungry” for wealth or even for others.

Cowen is not optimistic that the Internet, which gave me a second career as a self-made journalist-pundit, will continue to be the source of truth for those who want to store it there.  He thinks crime could undermine the entire digital revolution, and be the Big Rip of our complacency.  The Great Moderation will indeed end.

Cowen mentions the issue of campus protective environments (example is “Mizzou”) but doesn’t get into the issue of speech codes, micro-aggressions and trigger warnings the way he could. Campus environments are promoting complacency while pretending to favor activism.

 

Author: Tyler Cowen
Title, Subtitle: The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream
Publication date 2017
ISBN 978-1250108692
Publication: St. Martin’s Press, 240 pages, hardcover, 9 chapters, endnotes, index
Link: marginal revolution

(Posted: Thursday, May 4, 2017 at 3 PM)

“The Promise”: World War I epic about Armenian genocide is also a personal moral fable

The Promise”, directed by Terry George, and written with Robin Swicord, apparently based on an original story, is a historical epic about genocide, specifically of the Armenians in the early days of World War I by the Ottoman Turks.  The film has a bit the style of a modern western, and makes a compelling narrative with many moral points about a historical event that generally doesn’t get that much attention.  In fact, even today, the Turkish government (exacerbated by Erdogan’s dictatorial and press-suppressing behavior, which Donald Trump has supported), doesn’t admit that the Turks murdered 1.5 million Armenians (in an area that became part of the Soviet Union) during the period.

The basic story concerns an Armenian medical student Mikael (Oscar Isaac), an American Associated Press journalist Chris Myers (Christian Bale, who had played the Asperger-like doctor Michael Burry in “The Big Short”, helping drive the 2008 financial crisis), and the Parisian-raised Armenian woman Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), whom both men love.  The movie really plays down the romantic or erotic potential of the love triangle, to pursue more abstract moral arguments.

For openers, as the film opens, Mikael is a pharmacist in the mountain town of Surin, agrees to an arranged marriage so that the dowry will pay for his medical school.  It sounds off-putting to me for a promise of procreation and marital performance to pay for school, but that is how things used to be, where arranged marriages were common and  people were expected to “learn to love” their socially assigned spouses.  Once in school in Istanbul, the winds or war appear.  A friend bribes an official so that he can get a “student deferment” from conscription for being in medical school, an issue that would occur in my own life.  Eventually he faces brutality from Turkish officials who view him as a physical coward.  But he escapes, in a thrilling train sequence, and gets back to Sirun to find the Turks have destroyed it.

Chris and Ana have wound up in a nearby Red Cross facility, but Chris is captured.  The Turks accuse him of being a spy, but his release comes at the cost of the life of the Turk who helped him.  Chris repeatedly insists his writing (he has a notebook that looks like a pre-Internet blog) is necessary so that the rest of the world learns what is going on.  He even tells a French Captain that his reporting may help get the United States to join the allies in World War I (which would happen in 1917).  In the final scenes, where the orphans and some families are recused by the French, Mikael uses his skills to treat civilians wounded in battle (his mother dies), and Chris has to fight like a soldier.  But combat journalists often have to be able to handle themselves in battle.

Wikipedia article on Armenian Genocide.

This is a good place to note Comey’s comments on journalists and classified information.

Name:  “The Promise”
Director, writer:  Terry Georgr
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, very late, 2017/5/2, I was the only person in audience!  Showing just for me!
Length:  133
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Open Road
Link:  FB

(Posted: Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 5:30 PM EDT)

“Summer of 8”: on a California beach, teens enjoy their last day of “childhood” before college

Summer of 8” (directed and written by Ryan Schwartz) is a low-keyed coming-of-age youth drama, that doesn’t try to get funny (compare to “10 Rules for Sleeping Around”) and doesn’t seem that ambitious.

I was led to the film by seeing pianist-actor Michael Grant (“Fair Haven”) in the cast.  Here, he plays Aiden, one of eight 18-year-olds spending the last day of summer at Newport Beach, CA, before going off their mostly separate ways to college.

The film is framed by the lead character, alpha male Jesse, Carter Jenkins (who played the teen raising a pet dinosaur in the NBC series “Surface” ten years ago), writing a letter to his perfect dad, who we learn toward the end of the film, had passed away during Jesse’s boyhood.

The film starts in the day time and passes into an all-nighter, leading to some drugs and a little sex. But the daytime conversations early in the film get interesting.  The men are rated as to their attractiveness, which typically puts heterosexual men at peril.  Aiden is an 8.5 and I guess Jesse is the 10, but poor little Oscar (Matt Shively) is a 3, but Bobby (Nick Marini) seems to be in Jesse’s class.

College, as a college professor said in an opening episode of “Jack and Bobby” on TheWB in the middle 2000’s, is where adult life starts.  The kids here are starting to ponder the fact that their lives so far have been about them as individuals, competing in school; they have no concept of what marriage and raising their own families would be like.

Orion Pictures has returned as a distributor for the theatrical release.

Name:  “Summer of 8”
Director, writer:  Ryan Schwartz
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon instant, $4.99
Length:  88
Rating:  R
Companies:  Orion, FilmBuff
Link:  Cineplex

(Published: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 8:30 PM EDT)

“Frantz”: Ozon’s post World War I mystery

Frantz”, the latest film from Francois Ozon, is a period mystery, with a pacing that reminds one of Hitchcock.  It is set in another world Germany and France in 1919, after World War I. before the inflation and reparations got really bad in Germany.  The present time of the narrative is filmed in black and white Cinemascope (like Hud), with the flashbacks in a sepia color.  The film is in German and French, with subtitles.  The name of the tragically deceased character is deliberately ironic.

Anna (Paula Beer) grieves the loss of her fiancé Frantz (Anton von Lucke) and regularly puts flowers on a cemetery mark, even though his body was lost in the trenches. One day an appealing young Frenchman Adrien (Pierre Niney) shows up at the cemetery.  Frantz’s father, a doctor, asks him to leave and blames him personally for the horror Germans endured, and says he could never treat him (violating the Hippocratic oath). But Adrien wills his way into the family.  We learn that Adrien is a concert violinist, like Frantz had been, but struggles with hearing loss after the war.

The backstory shows how they became friends in Paris (with a hint of gay intimacy), and later presents their tragic accidental and fatal encounter in the trenches, setting up the moral dilemma for the movie.

Yet, there are signs of a bizarre romance between Adrien and Anna.  There is a swimming scene and then beach, where the camera dawdles on Adrien’s smooth chest, and then shows the only war wound, near the appendix.

But after Adrien returns to France, Anna goes looking for him, setting up some more ironies in the plot.

There’s a bizarre barroom scene where Frenchmen sing “La marsellaise”, out of Berlioz and out of “Casablanca”, but with some twists in words.

The movie has a brooding film score by Philippe Rombi, and some typical recital pieces, including a movement from a Tchaikovsky Quartet, and what sounded like an Alma Mahler song (I didn’t see it in the credits).

There’s a scene where Frantz’s father blames all fathers for goading their sons to fight for country.

There are critical scenes in the Louvre in Paris, looking at a painting of a suicide by Manet, with viewers filmed from behind, a technique from a famous scene in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” and in Brian de Palma’s “Dressed to Kill”.

The tone of the film reminds me of “The White Ribbon“, which sets up pre-Fascist ideas.

The color scheme is the inversion of what happens in my screenplay “Do Ask Do Tell: Epiphany”.  I put present day (on a space station Rama world) in sepia;  true events on Earth in backstory in full color, and fiction embedded in a leading character’s writings in black and white, all anamorphic wide screen.

Name: “Frantz”
Director, writer:  Francois Ozon
Released:  2017
Format:  2.39:1 Cinemascope, Black and White with sepia color for flashbacks  (French and German, subtitles)
When and how viewed:  Landmark E St.  2017/4/9 fair crowd   (Casablanca was in Dallas at the Inwood Theater in 1982)
Length:  111
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Music Box Films, Mars
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, April 8, 2017 at 11 PM EDT)