Sunday, March 12, 2017

Rogue One

I belatedly saw the film and didn't enjoy it as much as The Force Awakens. It was really slow and ponderous in the beginning. Plus it seemed to have a lot of nonsensical moments, like Saw Gerrera tossing the pilot in with that weird creature who was supposed to read his mind and/or turn him crazy. I mean, what was even the point of that, other than be gross? And why bother making it look like Saw was maybe crazy and not a good guy? His reunion with Jyn was initially tense, then began to warm up after seeing the holograph message, then Saw just decides to stay behind after the Death Star strike. So he'd prefer to die than join Jyn on her new mission? So incomprehensible.

SPOILERS BELOW, though probably everyone else has seen the movie already:

Monday, March 6, 2017

A United Kingdom

It was an enjoyable movie, though the beginning courtship felt rather vague about how long they had been dating before Seretse proposed to Ruth. Once engaged, they face strong opposition from both Seretse's uncle and Ruth's father, along with the British Government itself. Bechuanaland is a British protectorate, so under the guise of preventing a civil war between Seretse and his uncle, the British bureaucrats try to keep him off his throne. Britain's real motive is to avoid offending South Africa, with its new apartheid policies; the prime minister argues that they need South Africa's uranium and gold, so they must exile Seretse. He and Ruth resist the machinations, but end up separated as they each try to stir public outrage to reverse the exile. Ruth was not welcomed at first by Seretse's sister and his aunt, but slowly they warm up to her and help her out, especially when she has to face pregnancy and childbirth alone.

Meanwhile, Seretse keeps making their case in England, with the help of a reporter and a sympathetic government official. I was surprised to learn that Winston Churchill even spoke out, claiming that he would end the exile if he was elected. When Churchill does win, though, he instead exiles Seretse for life! So apparently the campaign promise was all politics, and not sincere. Contrast that with the community-based kgotlas meetings, and the Bechuanaland government seems more respectable and honest.

There is a secret "Harringdon report" that Seretse is looking for, as well as an American mining company searching for diamonds on their land. A lot of political intrigue. Then Ruth finally gets to reunite with Seretse and her family in England, while Seretse works out a way to make up with his uncle to end the stand-off. Ultimately Seretse gives up the throne and argues that Bechuanaland should become a democracy and seek independence from Britain. It's a moving film, and David Oyelowo delivers some fine, impassioned speeches about leadership, freedom, and not going along with segregation.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Historical movies

I didn't really watch the Oscars on Sunday, but I caught a few minutes during a break at work, and I got to see the Hidden Figures cast bring out Katherine Johnson to a standing ovation. It was great that such an important film was recognized; sadly they didn't win any Oscars, so they'll have to settle for the considerable box office success. Still, I was very pleased later this week to hear about the new Lego Women of NASA set, featuring Katherine Johnson and other STEM women.

As for the rest of the Oscar kerfuffle, I only checked the winners online, in that short minute between the initial announcement of Best Picture and the correction of Best Picture, so I was shocked by the reversal too. Though I've not seen either Moonlight or La La Land, I'm glad that Moonlight won. Prior to the Oscars, all the hype building about a La La Land sweep annoyed me, because I'm tired of Hollywood being obsessed with itself and tongue-bathing any movie about show business. As Honest Trailers called it, it was a Hollywood hand-job, so I'm glad that they looked beyond themselves and rewarded diversity instead.

As for diverse movies, this weekend I'm going to finally see A United Kingdom with David Oyelowo. This film was very slow to arrive here in DFW, much less move out beyond the specialty art theatres that are so inconvenient to me. I'm excited to learn about a historical romance I never heard of before, and in my favorite African country of Botswana. (It was the setting of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Allegiance

This Broadway musical about the Japanese internment was beautifully sung and acted. The sight of people chanting "Resist" in the face of prejudice and wartime paranoia is very timely, and I thank George Takei for pushing this message so we never forget. It's also so refreshing to see a cast of mostly Asian Americans instead of more Hollywood whitewashing. Too bad that this show was not successful against Hamilton. It is not depressing but rather uplifting, with a touching personal story of redemption and forgiveness.

George Takei plays WWII vet Sammy Kimura in the present day, as well as Sammy's grandfather in the past. The flashback introduces us to the family during a Japanese summer festival where they tie wishes to a tree, so that the wind will blow them away and grant the wishes. The song conveys their hopes and dreams for the future, and is bittersweet in light of what the war has in store for them. After the Pearl Harbor attack, Sammy and his friends try to enlist, but are rejected as "enemy aliens." Sammy's father argues not to make trouble or draw attention to themselves, that nothing can be done about the rising anti-Japanese sentiment.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lego Batman

The Lego Batman movie was funny, sweet and great. Not at all grim-dark, though it had serious dramatic moments. Just the right dose of Will Arnett that I needed to cheer myself up these days. And I don't know if it was an Arrested Development nod to the hermano confusion over Marta, but I liked how they kept using Spanish for their terms of endearment. Goofy, earnest Robin was fantastic, as was parental Alfred and awesome Batgirl.

I would say the only complaint I had was that the movie seemed to shove aside all the regular Batman villains in favor of the Phantom Zone villains. We barely had any lines from Catwoman, Two-Face, Riddler, etc, simply to focus on the Joker as the greatest enemy. It also took me a second viewing to realize the female police chief was a genderbent Chief O'Hara, and I'm not sure why Batman kept calling Bruce Wayne "Bruno" when talking about his "roommate." But I do agree that "Iron Man sucks" lately in the last couple of Marvel films with the Avengers.

Another thing was that I saw an ad for the Fathom Event showing of George Takei's Allegiance show about Japanese internment camps, so I'm going to see that today. I wish they wouldn't do such short notice on these kind of events. I missed the last showing because I was working that day and couldn't take off.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Effie Gray

Currently I'm reading a book called Parallel Lives, portraying the lives of famous Victorian couples. I've just read the chapters concerning John Ruskin and Effie Gray, and their unconsummated marriage. Very interesting, and the author makes an effort to balance the viewpoints. She shows how each spouse has a different, parallel view of the marriage, just as there are two sides to every divorce. Having grown up a spoiled genius, John Ruskin convinces himself that Effie is insane, and that she is the one causing the problems because she insists on sticking up for her family and wants to avoid his suffocating parents. The author also quotes Ruskin's parents, who think Effie is ungrateful for the wealth and comforts they pay for; they believe she should be obedient and defer to them, while John agrees with his parents. So apart from never having sex, their marriage had fundamental problems from the start. It's really strange how foreign old Victorian attitudes are, and the author even points out that other Victorian marriages had been unconsummated as well.

I remember watching the movie about Effie, and being dissatisfied that the movie ended before we actually saw Effie's marriage annulled. I guess they wanted to emphasize that the annulment was for her own well-being, rather than being for the specific goal of her marrying the painter Millais. (And indeed, the book says in real life that Effie made him stay away for a time to avoid scandal.) I look forward to finishing the book and learning about the other couples, such as the Carlyles.

By the way, I found that the s(her)lock web series has uploaded an episode to Youtube. I'm not sure what that means about the other episodes they made. Will they be available to purchase somewhere? I hope so.