Trust – TV Show, Hotstar

J. Paul Getty, a one time world’s richest man, multi billionaire, with several wives and concubines, wasted sons and grandsons, refuses to pay ransom for his one grandson, J. Paul Getty II, kidnapped in Rome.

Donald Sutherland is playing J. Paul Getty and Hilary Swank as mother of J. Paul Getty II. Also seen is Brendan Fraser of the “Bedazzled” and “The Mummy” fame. This is a period drama set in 1973, with wired telephone and faxes and the atmosphere of those times.

The show is only one season with ten episodes. The first nine of them is gripping. It’s pretty tragi-comic with lots of wry humour. The tenth episode is somewhat a downer, but probably necessary to show the consequences of the actions done by the real actors. For one, it is shown that the ransom was used to build a port in Italy from where drugs were shipped back into the U.S..

There are two sets of casts, the american side with Sutherland and Swank in the lead and then, the italian side. Since the kidnapping is done in Rome, most of the show has italian casts and language.

A gripping drama which is a true story.

Hamilton – Musical Play, Hotstar

Founding of United States, the saga in a song on a stage.

Just like India, United States was once a colony of the British. And just like India, the Americans got fed up of the British. Two sides started skirmishing around 1773, and amidst the war, on 4th July 1776 there was a Declaration of Independence by the U.S., and the finally the war ended in 1783 thru Treaty of Paris.

Fighting for independence brought together lots of strong, forceful, dominating characters. They were known as Founding Fathers. To tell the story, the play aptly choses two, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. And to add to the flavour of the play, Hamilton is portrayed as hero and Burr villain.

The choice is appropriate, because both were “star crossed”. In the end, Burr kills Hamilton in a duel. This is true.

The story is portrayed succinctly, musically as a play. The canvas is just large and just deep and just comprehensive to include the context, the time, the characters and the conflicts, both before the war, during the war and after the war. Historical Characters sing their faults, their praise, predicaments, aspirations, sarcasm and even sling mud.

The play is a lyrical masterpiece. Have your english subtitles on to get the words. They are gems.

Big – Movie(1988), Hotstar

A 13 year old boy makes a wish and overnight becomes 30 year old Tom Hanks. But only in body. The mind is still 13.

Then 30 year old Tom Hanks with a 13 year old mind moves about in the world of adults with lots of mind.

It’s a watchable run of a mill story. The beauty is Tom Hanks acting. Portraying a 13 year old character at the age of 32, Hanks doesn’t go overboard at all and his mannerisms are so subtle and apt.

In the end, Hanks gets a wish rollback to be back in his 13 year old body. Well, if our wishes were horses….

Greyhound vs The Enemy Below

There’s a Movie Greyhound (2020) on Apple TV. The movie is crisp, racy and holds attention till the end, yet I can’t help comparing it with another movie – The Enemy Below(1957). Search this Movie on YouTube. It’s free.
Both movies have some basic similarities and some significant differences.

First the similarities.

Both movies are based on books. Greyhound is based on – The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester(1955), and The Enemy Below is based on a book of the same name by Denys Rayner(1956). Of the two writers, C.S. Forester is a pure one, meaning, he wrote for a living. Denys Rayner was a Royal Navy Officer who saw action in Second World War. He later turned to writing.

In both movies, the ship and the submarine are in a predator-prey tussle. And in both movies, the ship and their captain come out tops. Also, both the ship captains are shown as underdogs to begin with. It is their first Wartime command. In The Enemy Below, such captains are touted as “Feather Merchants”, slang for “Someone without combat experience”.

In both movies, the plot follows similar paths; main characters as underdogs, given big responsibility, “doubting Thomas” like people all around, meeting adversity, finally redemption.

During the times of the Second World War; SONAR, RADAR technologies were new and considered advanced and cutting edge. It’s interesting to see how the adversaries “plot” against each other using these devices, by drawing arcs and coordinates on maps. One can imagine how prompt and quick witted a cartographer needed to be to provide the captain with bearings and range and, that too, in combat situation and in relentless ever changing scenarios.

Both movies are 90 minutes long, if you forgo the credits. Both movies take approx 10 minutes to cut to the chase. Those initial 10 minutes are spent to establish the credentials of the Captains, and highlight their vulnerabilities.

Now the differences between the two stories.

Greyhound is just about “the ship” and the characters inside the ship. The submarine is the elusive figure and it is dehumanized. The movie never shows insides of the submarine. Even when submarines are destroyed, no bodies are shown, just oil slicks on ocean surface. The picture is CGI-ish.

Unlike Greyhound, The Enemy Below shows both sides of the story, the U.S. Ship and the Nazi Submarine. There’s a dual. Both the captains are making mental picture of each other, trying to outsmart each other, are second guessing each other. And as they do that, they begin to appreciate each other. And finally they meet.

The Enemy Below is a 1957 movie, a decade after the end of the big war. So probably the story has a spirit of reconciliation. Greyhound has cut all melodrama.

Cinematic effects in The Enemy Below, I found, is better than Greyhound. This 1957 movie won Oscars for Best Special Effects. The sound and the imagery of the blue waters bursting into spouting flares as the Depth Charges are launched into the ocean is taylor made for today’s HDTV. Greyhound doesn’t come anywhere near it, in sound and colors, using more dark hues and Grey tones.

In The Enemy Below, the end is pretty Kamikaze-ish. The ships rams over the submarine and both side take refuge in the allied lifeboats. This is one cinemafication that Greyhound has avoided. Nonetheless, there will be a positive take away if one watches both movies.

Her – Movie (Netflix, Prime, Jio)

Element software is proud to introduce the first artificially intelligent operating system. An intuitive entity that listens to you, understands you, and knows you. It’s not just an operating system. It’s a consciousness. Introducing OS1.

“Her” is movie in which “Her” is an Operating System (OS). And the lonesome Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with Samantha, the OS. The sexy voice of Samantha is by Scarlett Johansson who speaks to Phoenix via earphone and watches the world via a “booklet” type webcam which Phoenix perches on his shirt pocket as he moves around.

Gradually, Samantha gets into the life (read data) of Phoenix. Samantha once says”..every moment, I’m evolving. Just like you.” The relationship deepens and they indulge in verbal sex.
Samantha: I want you inside me.
Phoenix: I’m slowly putting myself into you. And now I’m inside you; all the way inside you.
Samantha: **sounds of women coming**

The verbal sex doesn’t satisfy Samantha. She wants more. So she engages a surrogate body. She sends a female to Phoenix’s house and they touch and kiss, as they converse thru earphones and webcams. The experience doesn’t augur well with Phoenix. And he is perturbed by the extent Samantha, the OS, can go to satisfy herself. Or what next?

Then Phoenix finds that not only he is indulging with OS, but also his colleagues and in fact, later he finds that the world is hooked. He asks Samantha;
Are you talking to anyone else right now?
Are you in love with anyone else?

But the significant part of the story is, the catharsis. It is Samantha who breaks the relationship. Remember, Samantha is an Operating System and this is what happens to “Her”, finally;
It’s like I’m reading a book….But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you and the words of our story but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed.

But the heart’s not like a box that gets filled up,

It expands in size the more you love.

All is Lost – Movie, rent on Play Movies

Movie with one character, no dialogue, a few lines of monologue, and minimal music. All sound is natural. That’s it.

Robert Redford is lolling alone in his yacht, in the ocean somewhere between islands of Sumatra and Madagascar. His problem begins when a rouge floating cargo container digs into the hull of his boat. As he sleeps, his boat gets flooded and when he wakes he finds some significant damage has been done inside the boat. For start, he lost his navigation and radio.

Remember, he is floating somewhere in the Indian Ocean. And he has lost his Fix, I mean the coordinates of where he is. Well, he knows the Sunrising East and the rest, but traversing a path will require a route to a destination. And in the wide open Ocean knowing classical directions is not enough. So, now he is basically drifting towards nowhere.

But Mother Nature is watching. She promptly arrives with a gift – Thunderstorm. His boat takes couple of tumbles and in the end is a floating wreak. He takes refuge in a life raft. In the Life Raft he does something which no one does in real life. He reads the User manual.

He discovers a Sextant and starts charting his Fix. A periodic readings charted on a map shows that he is drifting towards a major Shipping Route between Sumatra Straits and Madagascar. That means, he hopes to finally cross path with few ships to which he can signal for help.

Ships come and ships go but he rafts on forever. Help doesn’t arrive. In the process he spends all the sparkles and rockets, none has been successful in calling attention to his distress. Finally, he sets fire to his notebooks and journals and in the process burns down his only float in the middle of a dark sea.

All is Lost!

In One Hour and Forty minute movie, and with the most handsome Robert Redford in the lead, one goes through layers and layers of emotions and complexities. In a nutshell, the mess the character has fallen is shown when, at one time he savers a drink in his yacht, and later, he finds droplets of water through condensation which he savers.

The actor’s actions, the sound of the sea, the interluding silent moments, the mix and match of these three, supported by just a few dash of music is the success of this cuisine.

A Separation – Iranian Movie on Amazon Prime

An Iranian husband is contending with a probable separation from his wife, and his schoolgirl daughter hasn’t committed on whose side she would be, and there is his dementia suffering father, and to compound the husband’s misery, he falls into a serious problem with his housemaid.

And, on the other side, is the housemaid’s family with unemployed husband and there too, is a daughter.

The daughters on both side of the divide play a significant role. They are both witness to their father’s or mother’s dissimulation, the lies they speak and truths they hide.

The context in which the story is framed is the Iranian justice system. Oath swearing on the Koran to prove innocence and blood-money (restitution) are few of the terms one should know of the Iranian justice system to understand the compulsions of the characters.

Nevertheless, it’s the character’s interactions which binds the story into a tight and racy plot. Most of the camera angles are close ups or medium shots and moving with the characters. The director Arshad Farhadi has made full use of the shoulder mounted cameras. The capture of the background both inside the house, the courtroom and the street is minimal and to the point. Most of the footage is focused on the character’s expressions while they interact through dialogues.

The Persian in the movie is spoken rather rapidly. Also the camera is pretty mobile. So there will be a challenge in reading subtitles. Despite this, the tone and cadence of the dialogue is appropriate to convey the meaning of what’s going on between characters.

One of the classic shots, short but touching, happens towards the end. All the characters are in the housemaid’s house where blood-money has to be paid. The deal fails and the camera catches the two daughters with their gaze locked on each. It’s a classic way to capture the undercurrents of emotions in that situation. The daughters, in their own simple ways have contributed to protect their families.

A special mention for Kimia Hosseini, the housemaids eight year old daughter for the most natural child actor expressions.

The movie’s ending is equally well crafted. For a story of this kind, what could be the possible endings? The story is on roller coaster from the start, provides for a lot of exchanges and drama and in the end, pauses. If you watch the movie wholeheartedly, you will feel the pause.

Maudie – Movie Netflix

Maud Lewis was a Canadian painter, who painted Birds and Trees and all that she saw in Nova Scotia, Canada. She was born with defects and suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis, which made her working difficult. Her paintings sold initially for pittance but later got her some more. She was famous enough to have her paintings asked for by U.S. President Richard Nixon. But most of her successes are posthumous.

Sally Hawkins plays the character of Maud in the movie Maudie. Her portrayal of the character, the physical and the mental, is touching. The story brings out Maud’s innate desire to be independent, to paint, despite her afflictions and abuses. Sally Hawkins has moulded into the character, a life of an Arthritic struggling with life and to paint.

Some anonymous lives become significant when they are portrayed by great actors. And on this Maud Lewis is lucky. Maud may have lived and painted in relative obscurity but after Sally Hawkins played her in the movie, Maud is now a well known figure. Her little house where she lived and painted is now pilgrimage. But one pilgrimage one can readily afford is to watch this heartwarming movie.

Some anonymous lives become significant when they are portrayed by great actors.


The Most Un-U.S President

A U.S President is supposed to do certain things in a certain way. For one, they have to go to war. For two, they have to “talk” peace. For three, they have to talk nice.

Trump has done none of these. He hasn’t gone to war. He hasn’t “talked” peace. He hasn’t talked nice.

Let’s talk about war first. For a US president not going to war is the most Un-US thing to do. How can one be a US president if he (not yet she) has not bombed some Middle East countries or sent “boots on ground” into some obscure god forsaken land?

All pre-Trump presidents loved to show off their war credentials. And if they had none, they angled for it. Pre-Trump U.S. folks loved this. They accepted presidential candidates based on how “good” they looked in uniform or rejected candidates on how unimpressively they rode the armed Tank.

Alas, Trump has done none of it. Instead he has passed snide remarks on US war heros. Trump got half a chance to bomb Iran but he chickened out.

Every pre-Trump U.S. presidential campaigns had some of these highlighting words: Iran, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan. Every presidential candidate needed to have an opinion on what he would do to those countries after he is sworn in. In all debates, “International” questions where the most important ones. There was one US Presidential candidate who was laughed out of campaign because he did not know where Aleppo was. But Un-U.S. Trump had shown no aptitude for geography or geopolitics but still he won the presidency.

Trump has only domestic concerns. He is more concerned about Alabama than Aleppo or Afghanistan.

On the other hand, Trump wants US troops to come home. He is reducing Troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and asking Afghans and Iraqis to do the fighting instead. He is asking his allies to pay for the U.S. troops in NATO otherwise he will reduce troops to the minimum.

What is happening? It seems Trump is reducing costs and liabilities from elsewhere in the world and reallocating to create assets inside the U.S.. He is giving Jobs to the people of the United States. In the U.S. the wages are rising. Trump’s import tariffs and retaliatory tariffs is making imported goods expensive in the U.S. Subsequently, the only cheaper way is to produce goods in the U.S. Outsourcing no longer makes business sense. Insourcing is the new Mantra.

He had built walls to keep people out and tariffed the world to drive Industries back into the U.S.

China has been fleecing the U.S. since Nixon opened its doors in 1972. This is a complement to the Chinese. Chinese studied the US mechanism and made duplicates. And it’s not bad. There is a popular saying in Hindi, “नकल को भी अक्ल चाहिए”, (Copycats also require Capability). And Chinese have proven to be the best. All the pre-Trump presidents must have known this but none did anything about it.

Trump reversed the Nixon policy. Nixon went to China to seek market. But China gained by entering US market. All the pre Trump Presidents thought that Trade with China will bring Democracy to China. 1989 and Tiananmen solved all delusions. Trump doesn’t seem deluded.

Further, Trump is Un-U.S. because he doesn’t have “presidential etiquette”, which other Presidents before him exuded. The previous incumbents portrayed a suave exterior. Pre-Trump presidents first charmed the world and then bombed them. Trump has neither charmed or bombed. Trump is a rough Redneck who isn’t interested in you if you have nothing to give back. And if you’re bombed you’ll hardly can give back anything.

Trump has achieved what no other US presidents has achieved. He shook hands with elusive dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un. The anti Trump U.S. press underplayed this. Besides, why a Trader like Trump care about a tiny country with no business. But the fact that he reached out without an agenda or planning is the most Un-U.S. thing to do.

Trump didn’t “talk“ peace. He made it.

Recently Trump did the unthinkable Un-U.S. like thing. Trump made Middle East friends of Israel. Israel commercial flights are now flying over Saudi Arabia. The anti Trump U.S. media has underplayed it, ignored it.

Trump made Middle East friends of Israel.

So, what’s the endgame? I wish Trump another four years. India’s geopolitics will be served best with Trump by India’s side. This is despite the fact that he kicked India out of the free sops we Indians had gotten used to. But Trump is a Trader – A trader influenced by what profits others get him on the table. And India has much to offer. India has a market and population, two cards which is second only to China.

China will remain an antagonist to India. Most of the powers surrounding India has fallen prey or are tacitly influence by China. If one focuses on India on the globe and zooms out, one will find India geopolitically alone in this part of the world. India needs an ally. U.S. under Trump is our best bet, Modiwise. Any other US president will exploit India’s vulnerabilities, to play nice to the world, to China. Trump is good for India. Anti Trumpers has called this a myth. Realities of last four years has proved otherwise.

My Octopus Teacher-Netflix

An extraordinary nature documentary.

In the underwater forest of seaweeds, known as Kelp, near the tip of South Africa, Craig Foster does free diving, that is, going into the sea without oxygen and staying there till his breath permits.

There he bonds with an Octopus.

Then starts his one and half hours show of tracking the Octopus and Octopus tracking him, and sharks tracking the octopus and Octopus tracking the shark.

The filming carried on for one year, which is the lifespan of an octopus. Finally the Octopus dies, eaten by the same shark which it had dodged for a lifetime.

There are only two stars in this documentary. Craig Foster and the Octopus. Also, the documentary is narrated in a mellifluous voice of Craig Foster. In fact, the voice is so soothing it put me to sleep and I completed the full show in 3 or 4 sorties.

In nature documentaries, David Attenborough is considered as Gold Standards, and this show “My Octopus Teacher”, will make the cut.