Minari directed by Lee Isaac Chung, 2000.

with Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Noel Cho, Alan S. Kim

Minari (2020) - Lee Isaac Chung | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes  and Related | AllMovie

When you see the beauty of the land that Jacob wants to farm, when you know he has a plan, and the skill to put it into action, you get the feeling that this movie is about a man trying to succeed. It is a struggle for a Korean immigrant not to be ripped off by connivers. He does not trust the man with the divining rod to be honest about how to find water. Instead, he trusts his own instincts, and digs a well, turns over the soil, and plants his crops, meant to be sold to Korean Americans in nearby towns of rural Arkansas.

This does not mean that Jacob and his wife Monica can stop working in the chicken factory, where their job is to determine the sex of the animal — males not so lucky, females survive. The parents of two young children, they lack child care, so bring their son David, around aged five, and daughter, Anne, a bit older, to work with them where they witness their father’s extreme skill at determining the gender of the animals. He is so fast, he can take breaks while others frantically try to meet their quotas. When David asks what smoke is, his dad answers male chickens don’t taste good, they have no use, they go to be smoked (killed). We’d better be useful he warns his son.

Alan S. Kim: Meet 'Minari's' Young Breakout Star - Variety
Alan S. Kim anchors the movie and is the one who should be nominated for the Oscar

This warning pretty much informs the movie’s soul. How useful is a man whose crop depends on a well that runs dry? Seeking child care, Monica summons her mother from Korea. Grandma is a pistol. She teaches the children to gamble, she swears, she gets David to run even though he has a heart murmur and is generally treated with kid gloves when it comes to physical activity. The relationship between five year old David and Grandma, who moves into David’s room, develops and is complex. They start out having not particularly good chemistry, and David is quite naughty at times with her. But it is clear that she loves him, and wants to teach him things he cannot learn from other Americans. Most important to her is not the farm that Jacob is creating, but the minari that she plants and grows on the riverbank. Frequent visits to this site give the movie a timeless feeling.

Minari' earning worldwide acclaim, accolades in US : Korea.net : The  official website of the Republic of Korea

The second half of the film, where Jacob is ready to sell his crop, and Grandma suffers a health emergency, begin to wear one down. The only native Arkansas character is a born again Christian so extreme, he carries a cross on his back to walk to town. Music wears one down as well. Every time he began talking about God as a savior, I cringed. I began to question inconsistent decisions being made by the characters who up until the second half made sense. Marital tensions create melodrama and add to the feeling of exhaustion on the part of the audience.

Still, the children’s acting, especially Allan S. Kim as David, the photography of the landscape, and the struggle of outsiders in an unforgiving culture, ring true.

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The Prom, directed by Ryan Murphy, 2020.

with Meryl Streep, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Keegan Michael Key, Jo Ellen Pellman

The Prom (film) - Wikipedia

This website focuses on movies and tv shows of high quality. There should be successful casting, performances, production values, costumes. Most importantly, if it is a musical, the music should be good, it should match the mood trying to be set.

The Prom’s music made me want to leave the room. The premise of the play is worthy, important even, to let a lesbian take her date to the prom. But having a bunch of washed up celebrities played by A List celebrities, ostensibly coming to her aid as a kind of publicity stunt, just feels pathetic. All of them do their level best to bring the material to life, but can’t. The choreography– don’t get me started

The Prom | Movie review – The Upcoming

I still will watch just about anything with James Corden and Meryl Streep but let them find better material next time. Jo Ellen Pellman plays the lead looking slightly older than a teen — I wish her luck in her career.

The Prom' loses its momentum, but still accept this musical Netflix dance  from Ryan Murphy | Movie review | Movie-reviews | news-herald.com
Jo Ellen Pellman plays Emma, Arianna DeBose plays Alyssa, her cheerleader girlfriend

One big redeeming grace note:

The Prom's Andrew Rannells & Keegan-Michael Key Reveal Their First  Celebrity Crush

Keegan Michael Key. He almost saves it in his performance as the high school principal with a deep crush on Meryl Streep’s character. He just couldn’t be on the screen long enough to do so.

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Nomadland directed by Chloe Zhao, 2020.

with Frances MacDormand, David Strathairn.

Nomadland poster.jpeg

Fern is an itinerant worker, a widow, an ex substitute teacher. She seems to have lived in the southwest, in Arizona, and since her husband died, she has gone from place to place, making enough money to survive. Along the way, she runs into other nomads she has met before. Swankie has cancer, and is ready to die. Fern gives her a hair cut.

NOMADLAND”: On the road again…and again…and again | Butler's Cinema Scene

When Fern arrives at a major national park, she recognizes David Strathairn, a fellow nomad, giving tours. They might actually have enough in common to strike up a long lasting relationship. But this movie is not about that. It is about how uncomfortable Fern is, and the people she has this trait in common with, staying in any one place. Everyone she becomes attached to leaves, every job is temporary. The laborers might be right out of Thomas Hardy novels, but instead of walking, they ride in vans to harvest the beetroots in the midwest.

Nomadland': Read The Screenplay For Chloe Zhao's Latest Meditation On The  American West – Deadline

In the beginning of the movie, Amazon is one of the employers of these nomads. I thought the movie would focus more on how that company has changed not only the way retail works, but the whole consumer economy, and how people have grown used to receiving everything they buy by mail, and the employees are forced to work through difficult conditions. But that would take away from the personal odyssey that Fern makes, her inner life, her connection to the people on the road.

Nomadland,” Reviewed: Chloé Zhao's Nostalgic Portrait of Itinerant America  | The New Yorker

Locations are important. New Mexico, Arizona, Nebraska, California. Where does her sister live? In a conventional house in a suburb. Fern is not comfortable sleeping in a nice bed with fresh sheets. She depends on her van, and when it breaks down, it becomes a minor crisis until she can rustle up the money to fix it. There are haunting images of factories closed down where Americans used to make things. Now we only sell things, and ship things made in China.

Not a single cell phone appears. All of the people talk face to face. In this way, the movie is an abstraction, and does not feel real. Later, I learned that the only actors in the movie were Strathairn and McDormand. The rest of the cast were actually who they appeared to be, nomads who live the life of migrant workers.

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Stray directed by Elizabeth Lo, 2020.

Stray Poster

After watching Gunda, a movie from the point of view of a large sow on a farm, I was thinking that Stray would be told from the point of view of the dog, Zeytin, a charming, caramel colored mutt roaming the streets of Istanbul. But it is hard to ignore human crowds, especially a group of Syrian refugees living at a construction site. These young men get high on glue, and follow the dogs which they find very appealing. A subplot has to do with their kidnapping a new puppy.

Mostly, we are in the company of the dogs which like their human counterparts, the refugees, are homeless. The dogs though seem incapable of being bad. Is it because they are animals and have no morals? It is true there a few skirmishes over a bone. It is clear that they don’t care where they take a shit. The camera alternates between the dogs and the humans.

“Human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog.”

“I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy, and bite the scoundrels.”

“Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards.”

These quotes from Diogenes come off a bit as stating the obvious, or trying to bring depth to a subject that is grounded on earth, not in the high planes of the brain.

Dogs and humans deserve places to live. The Turkish government, we are told, has a law that says strays dogs cannot be corralled or euthanized. It seems like a kind gesture, a reaction to people murdering strays with impunity, but watching the dogs fend for themselves, and the humans be abandoned, are two sides of the same coin. They demonstrate human neglect toward all parties, human and animal.

Overheard conversations from men and women growl in dissatisfaction with each other. This portion of the dialogue is translated from Turkish. The sung prayers are not. The dog is witness: He turns toward the camera as if to say, did you hear that? Some strays have tags in their ears, which is never explained. I wish there were less fraught violin music to accentuate the dramatic bits. The last part of the movie is best, when Zeytin moans in response to the prayers sung at dusk. That is what I was expecting to see more of, the inner life of the dog. As it is I saw teen boys discarded from Syria aging before their time.

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Rocco Schiavone, Ice Cold Murders, series on Amazon Prime

with Marco Giallini, Ernesto d’Argenio, Francesco Acquaroli, Isabella Ragonese.

Chain smoking Rocco has been banished from his police duties in Rome to northern Italy in the chilly Alpine city of Aosta. Here Rocco whose title is inspector, comes across many murders he must solve, usually while smoking if not tobacco then marijuana. The buddies he left behind in Rome deal in weed, and keep him supplied.

TV Time - Rocco Schiavone S01E06 - Spring cleaning (TVShow Time)
Rocco stays in close contact with his friends back in Rome

Rocco often confides in his beautiful wife, Marina, who comes and goes as a ghostly character.

Rocco (Marco Giallini) liebt seine Marina (Isabella Ragonese) wie am ersten Tag.

Slowly we learn of Rocco’s transgressions which go way beyond smoking in the office, and being rude and surly to his coworkers. As Rocco figures things out, the mysteries are satisfying to watch.

The landscape is beautiful, but Rocco will not give up his loden coat and desert boots, and resists the much more suitable parka and snow boots worn by colleagues.

Rocco Schiavone | DETECt Portal

His love for his wife is genuine even though he dallies with several women who are wrong for him. I love the attitude of Rocco: his disgruntled competence, his growls.

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Ethos TV series directed by Berkun Oya (2020). 8 episodes.

on Netflix

With Oyku Karael, Fatih Artman, Funda Eryigit, Defni Kayalar,

Ethos (TV Series) Analysis

After watching my friends appear on the screen in little boxes, instead of sitting side by side eating and drinking with them, this series made me appreciate the outstanding production values. Again and again we see close up faces acting in a drama with heartfelt situations in Turkey.

Ethos (Netflix) review - an excellent, truthful, artful Turkish drama
Meryem is at the heart of the show

Meryem is an observant Muslim being seen by a psychiatrist to help her understand why she is having fainting spells with no physical cause. Besides caring for the children of her brother, Meryem is employed as a housekeeper for Mr Sinan, a well to do playboy in Istanbul. In the course of one session, the psychiatrist teases out, based on the hidden nature of her replies to questions about Mr. Sinan, that she is in love with him but afraid to discuss it.

Cultural signals like wearing head scarves and being self deprecating are only one side to the complexity of Meryem’s character. When her psychiatrist, Peri, has a session with her own psychiatrist, Gulbin, who she calls sweetie, we are led into another character seamlessly. The need for psychiatrists to be receivers not reactors of all your most intimate troubling thoughts is brilliantly portrayed. I’ve never seen anything like it on screen before. Of course siblings don’t always get along. But have we ever seen two sisters go at each other physically with such disdain before? Gulbin and her sister Gulan go after each other like two four year olds. What would it be like to be queer in a closed society that doesn’t even let you listen to rap music? The series grapples with this dilemma. So many characters need someone to confide in, tending to their wounded psyches.

Ethos | Netflix Official Site
Peri (Defne Kayalar) is Meryem’s psychiatrist

Meryem’s brother, Yasin, has rage barely kept at a simmer, and his wife Ruhiye who seems to be in the middle of a nervous breakdown, suffers several suicide attempts.

Most important in the community is Hoca, the spiritual leader, who advises Meryem on her questions that seem to go beyond faith.

Ethos | Netflix Official Site
Yasin (Fatih Artman) is Meryem’s brother, singularly miserable character
Ethos" Episode #1.8 (TV Episode 2020) - Esme Madra as Burcu - IMDb
Settir Tariyogen plays Ali Sadi Hocan, spiritual leader

At one point or another, each of the characters is shown watching tv, especially a show featuring Melisa, a popular soap opera actress who befriends Peri during a yoga class. The series sometimes has a meta feeling to it as it explores the quality of popular shows, especially soaps. Is this series itself a bit of a soap? Only when the music pours on the violins lavishly does it threaten to be.

The treatment of such a wide array of characters in Istanbul made me question: how different are we here in the United States from these observant and non observant Turkish people? Don’t all societies have the observant religious and the secular living side by side, or trying to stay away from each other? Meryem’s head scarf and Peri’s tidy sweater set stand in for their cultural place holders. How addicted are we to our popular cultural heroes, our soap opera stars, our musical titans? How much do we just want to dance with those we love, or tell them how we really feel at the end of the day?

The photography and images of all the characters are outstanding. When Yasin is so frustrated he stuffs a bunch of persimmons in his mouth it is a perfect metaphor for the bitterness of his frustration. Sometimes I think all of the characters are insane, or each of them has a reason to want to end their lives, and only Ruhiye, Yasin’s wife, has the energy to do so. But by the 8th episode, when many things are resolved, and Meryem is courted by a clumsy but loving man, the show’s direction changes course. It is hopeful. Still, several things are left hanging. Does this mean that there will be a season two? It is something to look forward to.

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David Byrne’s American Utopia directed by Spike Lee. 2020.

on HBO

Movie Review: 'David Byrne's American Utopia On Broadway' | BourbonAndVinyl
Spike Lee to Direct David Byrne American Utopia for Movie

Spike Lee has captured this concert’s heart and soul with David Byrne’s music and an amazing cast of dancers and musical performers surrounding him. The footage puts you in there with the dancers, and in the head of David Byrne who has a spiritual side as well as a political one. He features a song written by Janelle Monae, “Hell You Talmabout” that demands to say the names of blacks killed by the police under unjust circumstances. This is much more direct than the slightly zoned out music of Byrne, and provides a welcome contrast.

The camera knows exactly where to be at the right moment.

Admirable twist: Don’t skip the credits when David Byrne, bicycling advocate, leads his group out into the Manhattan streets, all of them on bicycles following his lead. It is a touching tribute to the city as it once existed, with artists going about their business without face masks, and to Byrne’s mystical appeal. Based on what they are wearing, scarves, gloves, parkas, it is winter, when riding a bicycle takes a true commitment.

When David Byrne Got Together With Spike Lee - The New York Times
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Detectorists written and directed by Mackenzie Crook, 2014-2017.

with Mackenzie Crook, Toby Jones, Rachael Spirling, Diana Rigg.

Available on Amazon Prime or Acorn.

Amazon.com: Detectorists: Mackenzie Crook, Toby Jones, Rachael Stirling,  Mackenzie Crook: Movies & TV
To play trailer click here

The Detectorists combines the charms of a buddy movie with an exquisite rural landscape set in Britiain’s Suffolk. Throw in some self important members of a nerdy club, a glimmer of romance, and you have an easy going comedy that occasionally goes deeper. This BBC series of 30 minutes each had three seasons of 6 episodes. I wish it had gone on longer.

Mackenzie Crook wrote and directed the show, and played one of the lead actors. His gaunt melancholy face is perfect for playing the role of Andy, an enthusiastic detectorist (those folks with metal detectors hoping to find metals e.g. gold). Andy and Lance (Toby Jones) pair up to survey a beautiful parcel of land bordered by a mythical looking ancient tree. The tree is occupied by several magpies whose participation in the show grows with each of the three seasons. By the third season, the show takes on an aura of myth without being pretentious.

Detectorists Return For Series 3 – The Velvet Onion
“Simon and Garfunkel” — rival detectorists

Villains arrive in the form of rivals seeking to survey the same land. These two are very un-affectionately referred to as Simon and Garfunkel for obvious reasons. Andy’s lovely girlfriend, Becky, is an intelligent teacher with a sense of humor, essential to live with such a gloomy guy as Andy. Diana Rigg acts the role of Becky’s mother and Becky is played by Rigg’s real life daughter, Rachael Stirling.

Johnny Flynn’s haunting music is hard to dislodge once you hear it, and it is played to great effect during the course of the show. The show has a gentle rhythm, a sweet plot centered on what makes a proper home, and a great cast.

Detectorists review: more tender comedy about men, middle age and  metal-detecting | TV comedy | The Guardian
the tree has a rather large (literally) role to play
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Elizabeth is Missing directed by Aisling Brown. on Masterpiece/PBS, through Amazon Prime

Genre: mystery, social realism about dementia

with Glenda Jackson.

Image result for elizabeth is missing
Masterpiece production of movie
Based on this novel

The frustrating thing about having dementia is that not only is it difficult for the afflicted person to understand, it is equally hard to be understood.

Maud, the main character in this adaptation of Emma Healey’s 2014 novel, has it as good as it gets. She lives in a lovely home, and has a loving daughter and granddaughter who look in on her and genuinely care about her. Her son, who lives in Germany, and whom she cares about the most, shows up occasionally.

Maud loves gardening, and helps her friend Elizabeth in hers which is how the movie begins, two friends, digging in the dirt. It seems odd that Maud would wear pearls and a cashmere sweater to do this work. It is the first sign we have that something is not quite right.

Maud finds a blue enameled mirror, the first of many triggers of memories of her beloved sister Sukey. Later, Maud finds a cigarette butt which reminds her of the last time she saw Sukey looking, as always, beautifully dressed and coiffed back in 1949, 70 years ago.

Image result for elizabeth is missing
Maude and Sukey in 1949

These sudden jolts of memory hit Maud like an electric wire. She is sensitive to sounds too–the barking of a dog sends her into a fearful paroxysm.

Notes carefully placed around her house remind Maud to lock the door, to turn off the kettle, etc. It is clear that her mind is losing the ability to keep track of what happened recently. What happened long ago, in 1949, keeps creeping closer.

We experience Maud’s loss of her friend Elizabeth from her point of view. We know that something is off: looking through the blinds of Elizabeth’s living room, she sees that something went wrong. Broken vase pieces lie on the floor, along with her eyeglasses.

She keeps track of what she learns on small post it notes but after a while, they are a jumble. Her granddaughter with great compassion tries to help her piece them together. You need a system, she coaches. If only you would date them, we could follow a path.

The director keeps the audience dangling, living inside her head, as Maud visits the police station. The officer lets her know this is not the first time she has come inquiring after her missing friend. Here is one of the most piercing moments of the movie: Maud learning that she had already reported Elizabeth missing. You can feel her stomach sink.

As the mystery of what happened to her missing friend unfolds, it brings up the mystery of what happened to her missing sister so many decades ago. Maud is a dogged detective, determined to find out.

Glenda Jackson performs the part of Maud with precision, accurately detailing the motions and feelings and troubles that dementia patients go through. At times I felt that the script writer had spied on my mother during her final years with the disease: the way she walked, and dressed, some of the nasty manners she displayed, especially when she was tired and frustrated.

It is a remarkable performance. All the modern day cast are up to her level. The director has successfully captured the state of mind of someone grappling with her decaying mind even as she solves the mystery of what happened to her long lost sister.

I recommend this movie to anyone who appreciates watching an older actress accurately portray a woman with dementia. So many of us who take care of our older loved ones know exactly what this is like. It is not a pretty picture, but the solving of the mystery sweetens the bitter end. Glenda Jackson has come out of retirement as an actor, after having served in Parliament for many years, and I salute her.

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Lupin Season 1 directed by Louis Leterrier and Marcela Said, 2021.

with Omar Sy, Ludivine Segnier. (on Netflix, in French)

Lupin (TV Series 2021– ) - IMDb

Assane Diop’s father, an immigrant from Senegal, was convicted of a crime when Assane was a teen. Twenty years later, convinced his father did not do the deed, he is determined to put the pieces together.

Arsene Lupin, the famous French gentleman thief, fictionalized by Maurice LeBlanc, transfixes all three generations of Diop men. The books are handed down from father to son. By the time Assane, who is now an accomplished thief himself, goes after the truth, his son Raoul is around the same age he was when his father committed suicide in his jail cell.

The cast of characters includes one or more sinister villains, assorted police officers, Assane’s ex wife, Claire, and an important accomplice and old friend who arranges for some complicated forgery. Assane combines the skills of a master thief, magician, and set director/costume artist as he enters and escapes each perilous location.

Lupin Trailer: The Gentleman Thief Gets His Own Netflix Series – /Film
Omar Sy plays Assane Diop

The forward thrust of the plot keeps me riveted to my seat. Omar Sy’s acting is great fun to watch. He executes each bit of magic with ease. The series ends on a cliffhanger. I can’t wait to see what happens next. We have to wait for season 2 to find out.

Lupin': New Netflix Original Series From France With A Charismatic Leading  Man

Family: Raoul, Claire, and Assane visit LeBlanc’s birth place
Quién es Hervé Pierre, el señor Hubert Pellegrini en Lupin, serie de Netflix
The villain, M. Pellegrini (Herve Pierre)
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