Advice from Popular Culture

From Hollywood, to kids’ cartoons, to sappy inspirational Facebook posts, entertainment culture is full of advice on how to live our lives. Imagine the consequences of taking this wisdom seriously. Actually, you don’t need to imagine: our culture is littered with living examples of men and women who embraced the subtle and not-so-subtle popular messages. Still, it would be interesting to flip through a book called A Year of Living Hollywood. Here is some of the most common propaganda of social media, celebrities, and movies:

1. Follow your heart. This pretty saying comes first, because it’s our culture’s favorite. I remember years ago asking a wise older friend for advice about getting married, and this is what she said to me, very tenderly though: Follow your heart. I was confused. My very problem was that I had followed my heart, and it wasn’t getting me anywhere. What I needed was some sensible input, help weighing up the pros and cons and identifying flags of all hues in this relationship.... [Read More]


A Good Word for the Latest Star Wars

I just saw The Rise of Skywalker, and I loved it. The visual and aural effects were astounding, the settings beautiful, the story fun, most of the main characters engaging, and the adaptations of what audiences love about Star Wars present without being too derivative. This was brilliant high-tech, family-friendly fantasy storytelling. I did think parts of the script were too warm-fuzzy, but not enough to ruin the movie. It was one of the best they’ve ever made, in my opinion. A dramatic scene with Adam Driver* demonstrates the contrast in acting skills between him and Hayden Christiansen, who played the young Darth Vader in those nearly unwatchable prequels. It’s odd how these films vary in quality.

Now I can go back and read the Ricochet members’ analyses of this movie. Judging by their post titles, they seemed disappointed.... [Read More]


Won’t you be my neighbor?

Did any of you see the Mr. Rogers movie with Tom Hanks? It wasn’t really even about Mr. Rogers. It was about a man who interviewed him for Esquire magazine in about 1998, and is based on that story. I made sure I had tissues in my purse because I suspected I’d need them, and sure enough I did. Reminded me of me when my life was a lot more simple, before it got really complex and lonely. The main character undergoes some spiritual and emotional growth as a result of spending time with Rogers. It’s a good story, wholesome and true.

Anyway, did you see it? Did you like it?... [Read More]


Who knew?

I never realized that The Three Stooges was brother humor from real brothers. Moe was the older brother to Curly. And actually Shemp who came in to temporarily fill in for Curly was an older brother to Moe.

Moe is the epitome of the older brother taking advantage on an angelic younger brother. (I was an angelic younger brother.)... [Read More]


Anyone else see the new space movie?

My husband and I both like sci-fi and went to see Ad Astra yesterday. It was showing in a small room, and only a handful of viewers were there. So I wondered whether it would be any good.

Without giving much away, I would say that I enjoyed the plausible technological and political vision of our future.  There was an “airport” for going to the moon.  The effects were beautiful, and much of the acting was good. There were original aspects to the plot. I also appreciated the conclusion lMILD SPOILER below, then more to read.]... [Read More]


Claws of the Red Dragon

Huawei and 5G logosSteve Bannon, former head of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, chief strategist in the Trump White House, and executive chairman of Breitbart News, has produced a movie, Claws of the Red Dragon, a fictionalised account of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese technology giant Huawei, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in December 2018.

Huawei, founded by Meng’s father, Ren Zhengfei, is described as “China’s largest private company”, and is the world’s largest telecommunications infrastructure provider and the second largest manufacturer of smartphones.  It is estimated that networks using its gear provide mobile communication services to one third of the Earth’s population; its global revenue in 2018 was estimated at US$ 105 billion.  Huawei is a leader in developing infrastructure for 5G mobile networks, which are viewed as a key component of the communications and computing infrastructure of the next decade.... [Read More]


Hold My Beersheba

In the recent Star Wars movies, the character Rey, the ostensible protagonist, never fails, never grows, never overcomes — she just wins and grins.  Or grimaces at some points, but her travails are all patently boring, as we know that she will succeed.  She succeeds at everything.

Star Wars is not the point.... [Read More]


Engineers of the Human Soul

Stalin said, “The writer is the engineer of the human soul.” One of the characters in the film The Lives of Others slightly misquotes Stalin to include all artists as engineers of the human soul. It seems that Stalin was a few decades ahead of Andrew Breitbart’s politics is downstream from culture. Totalitarians know their stuff.

This is not a movie review but I do recommend this film. It’s about the Stasi in East Germany, set a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s in German with subtitles, streaming on Netflix. I enjoyed this joke from the movie:... [Read More]


Bride and Prejudice: Bollywood-style fun!

Bride and Prejudice (2004) is billed as a romantic drama. It’s directed by Gurinder Chadha, who is well-known for the highly-successful Bend it Like Beckham (2002). Chadha wrote the screen play with Paul Mayeda Berges, which is based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. This Bollywood-style adaption of the novel is light-hearted fun. It opens by throwing the audience straight into Bollywood-style singing and dancing, and this sets the tone for the film.

The Bennets, the English family of Austin’s novel, become the Backshis in the film, an Indian family. The mother is desperate to have her four daughters marry respectable and rich men. The daughters have their own ideas as to whom they want to marry; especially Lalita Backshi. After some misunderstandings, Lalita marries Will Darcy, a handsome and rich American, and her older sister, Jaya, marries Balraj, an English barrister. They have a joint wedding, and ride off on elephants, to live happily ever after. This leaves everyone happy, including the parents.... [Read More]


Do You Like Opera?

Pavarotti (2019), is a documentary based on the life and music of opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Directed by Ron Howard, it’s not a great film, but it’s well-worth seeing.

What I liked most about it is that there was lots of music. It is made clear that the training to become an opera singer in the Italian bel canto tradition is not easy. Pavarotti’s glorious, dramatic tenor voice had to be developed and trained, and this involves a lot of hard work. It’s a lifetime project, as the film shows. The many clips taken from notable performances by Pavarotti are a joy to see and hear. Those high Cs have to be experienced to be believed.... [Read More]


Widows, a film with a difference!

Widows (2018) is a heist film with a difference. The main characters are women. These include one of my favourite actresses, Viola Davis, who plays Veronica Rawlings, the brains behind the heist. I was reminded once again how Viola can convey so much in a glance, in an expression fleeting across her lovely face. She is a real actress in that she becomes the part she is playing, it isn’t the part being played by her. The perfect part for her hasn’t appeared yet. She does such great work, it seems to me she has so much more to give. She moves me by her performances: she needs a part with a broader depth than those she has been given up till now. Whatever film she is in, I’ll be there. In Widows, she does a wonderful job, and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. She is the first black actor to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award.

My friends of my Film Group, all enjoyed the film. A very lively discussion ensued after we had viewed it. John, said he liked that it was mainly a female cast, and that they won in the end. We noticed that it is different from other movies of this genre. The story wasn’t told in a straight-forward manner, and it almost seemed as if the editing hadn’t been done too well. In a further discussion a day later in our Coffee Group, Alice explained that it is done in a post-modern style. This is realistic, and tells a story more as it would unfold in real life, rather than to a formula.... [Read More]