Yes, okay, this is much longer than a "capsule," but most of that is explaining why the review is so short. Bizarre, yes, I know. But still...
Last weekend, I saw a very good, quite interesting movie, but I didn't write about it here because it was a foreign language film in Korean, and I figured that most people wouldn't likely be able to see it -- or want to, in some cases. However, it did win the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or, so I tossed a coin over it. But within the past hour I saw two "Now playing in select cities" TV ads for the film, so obviously the distributor is not only going to give it a domestic release, but also putting some support behind it. And I'm sure it will expand beyond this. You don't put on TV ads in limited cities if you don't plan to build support for it. So...okay, then.
The film is called Parasite. And...well, another reason I didn't write about it is because that's almost all I want to say because there are some major twists and turns to it which I won't give away. And the plot alone doesn't do it justice.
It screened at the Writers Guild, and their write-up said, "Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan." That wasn't enough to interest me, but when I off-handedly mentioned it to a friend who used to participate on the Motion Picture Academy's foreign language film committee until he moved out of town -- but keeps up with such things -- he insisted I had to go because he'd heard how good it is.
And it's very good. Very accessible, nothing esoteric or ethereal. I liked it a lot, though I'm a little surprised it won the Palme d'Or -- though in fairness I don't know the competition. (My friend has seen one of the competitors and said he found that one boring.) I didn't buy everything in it, and don't know if it made its thematic point as strongly as it was trying to -- but it's a really wonderful ride, tells a terrific story and is handled with great panache. What I'll say is that a better description -- without giving anything away -- is that it tells the story of what happens when a very wealthy family and very poor family overlap in an unexpected way, and when you think you see where it's going, it takes a big turn. And then takes other turns.
The problem is what video to embed. All the various trailers, while very good, give a very wrong impression of the movie. They sell it extremely well, but make it look like it's one thing and it's not that. But the thing is, I don't even want to explain why it's not. And it's not that it's "A Mystery!" but rather just goes in unexpected direction and in several ways. (A user comment posted under the Official Trailer says it correctly: "Just watch this movie. Don't search the web for it, don't watch any more trailers or reviews. You need to go in blindly." So, see, it isn't just me!)
So, I'll do this instead, I'm going to post two videos. Neither give a great sense of the movie. But they don't give anything away or give the wrong idea of what the movie is.
This first is a clip of the opening scene. So, there's nothing substantive in it with the plot, but it does set up some of the characters. (At one point, you'll have to click away an ad that appears at the bottom of the screen, since it blocks the subtitles.)
And this other will absolutely give nothing away -- because it's in Korean, and the subtitles aren't in English. It's a behind-the-scenes video of the production design, so what you will get is a sense of the production (which is wonderful) and the range of scenes.
A couple days ago, I posted two TV commercials that I especially liked these days, one of which was for Volkswagen that used the classic song, "Turn Around, Look at Me." They only use about 20 seconds of the song, though, so I thought I'd post the whole thing. Just because I like it, and it deserves a full hearing.
I don't know for certain if the ad uses the version made famous in 1968 by The Vogues. It sounds like it, but commercials often use "sound-alikes" because they can't get the rights to the original, or the cost is to high. Listening to the ad again, I do think it's The Vogues. But this most definitely is --
[Side note: I almost posted a video I found of the original group reunited performing the song in concert in Australia probably about 15-20 years ago. But it cuts off right before the big, final, booming last note. And sorry, you don't cut off the song before the big, final, booming last note. I'm not going to post it here, but if anyone wants to see it, it's otherwise quite nice, and you can find it here.]
I first began reading journalist Daniel Dale a couple years ago -- not extensively, but various very pointed pieces he was writing about Trump as Washington correspondent on Capitol Hill for the Toronto Star, covering subjects that most others weren't, or weren't in as much depth and detail. His main beat seemed to be tracking down Trump lies and calling them out. Basically, he is to Trump lying what Pulitzer Prize-winning David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post is to Trump's finances.
This year he got hired full-time as a reporter of CNN. His work remains top-notch and that core focus of his remains the same. And this article is about as quintessential example of what he does. (Embedded with it is an accompanying CNN "Reality Check" video report.)
The point of the article is that as the impeachment investigations have gotten more serious, Trump's lying has increased. Indeed, Dale points out, Trump not only made a whopping 96 documented lies last week...but he made 53 on Monday alone. And "documented" is the important point here, becuase Dale details them all -- yes, all 96, broken down by category and with the accompanying fact-check.
You can read the article here, co-written with Tara Subramaniam.
As I mentioned the other day when posting the brilliant Lord of the Rings air safety video here from Air New Zealand, the airline has made a wide range of Big Production safety videos including a couple more from Middle Earth. I've posted one other, and here's a third -- "Just Another Day on Middle Earth" Hey, this is Lord of the Rings, of course it's a trilogy...
Last week, when it was announced that Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, a 20-year military officer who has a Purple Heart for being wounded in the Iraq War and has served on the National Security Council and was appointed to his current position in the White House by Trump himself, would be testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, I heard numerous analysts say how finally there was a witness who Trump and the Republican Party wouldn't be able to attack such a patriot. I laughed, rolled my eyes and marveled at the truly remarkable short memory of people so otherwise bright.
Just a week before, Trump and the GOP attacked the Ambassador William Taylor, not only one of the Department of State's most respected ambassador who has served his country for 50 years, but who came out of retirement because he was asked to by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump himself!!!
And Trump and the Republican Party found ways to attack the patriotism of Robert Mueller, a decorated war veteran who had received both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal. Trump and the GOP had no qualms at all trying to run him through the mud.
And lest we forget, when running for president, Trump smeared a gold star family who had lost their so fighting the United States. And Trump demeaned Sen. John McCain, who had been tortured in war and has been seen as a hero for standing by the men he commanded when he could have been sent home to recover -- and who was awarded two Purple Hearts, three Bronze Star Medals, and two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals -- and of whom Trump said, "I prefer people who aren't captured."
And this isn't new for the Republican Party.. For goodness sake, they created a whole new term for such reprehensible attacks on war heroes and patriotism, "Swiftboating," when they attacked Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry who won three Purple Hearts.
And then of course we can't forget when Trump, the man who his dad got out of the Viet Nam War by having a doctor write up a fake excuse of "bone spurs," was handed someone's Purple Heart as a gift and saying, "I'm always wanted one of these."
So, every time Trump tries to flim-flam his blind, unthinking base by saying how much he loves the military and veterans, I get the sense that he and the Republican Party tend to most love them for how they can demean their patriotism and heroism when it works his and the Party's advantage.
On this week's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, they usually put notable news of the week in the upfront section, and the use the main story for something out of the mainstream to research. This week they had a well-researched piece for their main story -- but it overlapped with the news, a detailed look at Trump and Syria. It's very good, quite funny, and extremely pointed.
Even if you don't like hockey -- or sports -- this is a total hoot.
At every home game, the NHL Washington Capitals have an event between periods where they let a lot of little kids play, and then select one of them to be the "Mite of the Nite." On this particular night two weeks ago, the winner was young Jackson Friedlander who, as is the custom, got interviewed and waxed eloquent on Alexander Ovechkin (pronounced oh-vetch-kin) and pet tarantulas, among other subjects.
How fun was it? Even the team itself notes this this might be "the greatest Mite of the Night interview EVER.".
For the past three weeks, the country has been pretty-well inundated with Trump, Ukraine and impeachment. And though we're all getting largely the same news, the challenge has been keeping up, missing some and hearing how different people analyze it. So, it was sort of weird and refreshing yesterday to get an aspect of the story from a totally different perspective.
Not a deep, substantive perspective, just one skimming across the surface. Still, though,when a different angle shows up in a sea of All the Same, you appreciate it.
I was talking with a cousin yesterday, when a thought occurred to me. "Your wife," I said, as the little light bulb went on above my head, "she's from Ukraine, isn't she?!"
Actually, I knew she was from Ukraine. We'd discussed it briefly a year ago or so, but on a totally different story at the time, of course. Back then, the news was about Paul Manafort, his coming trial and how his PR company had been paid over $60 million by Ukraine. What bemused her about it all was that that may have been more than the entire military budget of the country.
And I knew, too, that my grandfather Morton Leviton was from Ukraine. He was born in Odessa, and came to the United States early on, getting his naturalized citizenship in 1912 at the age of 27. He became an architect though passed away long before I was born. He was my mother’s father, and she absolutely, totally adored him, naming my brother John’s middle name was after him. His wife, my Grandma Rose, was one of the utter joys of my life.
But much of that sort of stayed resting in the back of my mind, relaxing amid the Trump circus. I certainly remembered my grandfather's connection to Ukraine, but that was such a minor part of everything, it fell mostly in the Bemused Category.
So, it wasn't until yesterday talking with my cousin that the far greater connection he had -- and far greater connection his wife has -- bubbled to the surface. (The two of them actually met in Ukraine, for that matter, so his knowledge of the country was more than tangential. And hers is continual, still with family there and in regular contact.)
What I was curious about was how this story -- one that is so profoundly consuming on a non-stop hourly basis to the United States for it being centered on the likely impeachment of the president and which is focused entirely on Ukraine as the foundation of it all -- is seen in Ukraine. Was something this overwhelmingly impactful to the United States as big a news story in Ukraine...or of so little interest that it doesn't even register much.
And the answer, he said, is the latter.
It just isn't much of a story there. And there are two reasons -- one thoroughly understandable, the other a bit bemusing. The first, he said, is that the far, far, far bigger story there is that the country is actually in a war with Russia, and the survival of the country is at the core of people's lives. Not a constitutional issue 3,000 miles away. (Although of course it's worth nothing that at the heart of that constitution issue of impeachment is the matter of holding up $391 million in military aid to the country in their fight.) The other reason, more on the whimsical side, is that given how totally corrupt Ukraine is, another country's corruption is meaningless to them. In fact, in many ways it's just a given. Not even remotely headline news.
As I said, this is not earth-shattering, deep perspective on the story. But it certainly is intriguing to look at this swamp from a different angle. And even, when it gets a bit overwhelming, somewhat nice...
There are a handful of TV ads that have caught my eye recently -- a couple of them very good, and a couple that bothers that I think are...well, less so. I figure that I'll start today with the good ones.
Of these good ones, you probably know the first since it's been playing a lot. The other though could have slipped through the cracks.
I think the first for two reasons -- one is that I've always liked the song by the Vogues, though that's not a substantive reason for liking the ad. That's because I think it makes an absolutely great social point, and does so in a very subtle and very funny -- and impactful -- way.
The other is an ad for YouTube. (I'm not quite sure why YouTube is advertising, but it's hardly a bad idea for any company.) I don't think it's been seen all that much -- the only place it's touched down for me is during the baseball post-season playoffs. And given the subject matter of the ad, that might be the only place that they've bought air-time for it. So, if you've missed it, I think you might appreciate how charming and evocative and whimsical it is.
If you can avoid reading the description of the ad on the embedded video below, do try to avert your eyes before clicking on the thing. It's not a big deal if you do happen to read it, but it gives away someone that makes the ad a bit more fun to discover as it plays out. But you learn that very early on, so it's fine if your eyes wandered...
So, here then is the second ad currently running that I love. I'll post the two others that bug me upcoming soon.
"Canines -- or as I call them, 'dogs.'"
-- Trump, demonstrating how he truly does know All the Best Words
The rest of us call them "pooches" and "hounds" - or mistakenly "otters."
From the man who said, "Nancy, or as I like to call her...'Nancy.'"
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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