Friday, April 22, 2016

A Murder in the Park

The wrongful conviction of innocent people is a horror and injustice that I find very hard to bear. I've been deeply grateful for the Innocence projects that have been doing such great work exonerating people.

A Murder in the Park looks at a famous exoneration in Illinois that was spearheaded by a journalist professor and his undergraduate students. This chilling documentary exposes their sloppy work and the biased determination of the professor and his private investigator to implicate someone else. In this case, the exoneree's innocence, and the guilt of the person eventually convicted for the same crime, are extremely suspect.


I don't know if I've written about previous seasons of Girls. I recently finished the fifth season, which moved and entertained me perhaps more than any other season. I have always liked the show and have been annoyed by so much of the criticism of it. I think Hannah is a great character and I've loved watching her. She always makes me laugh, and I always sympathize with her (with one or two exceptions) even when she behaves "badly". The other characters I feel more hot and cold toward, depending. Season five has them developing more and each episode seems to have a special architecture that holds themes in a more layered way.

The Quiet American

Graham Greene is one of my favorite writers. I love how he explored human pain and failure in the context of political abuse. I had seen the movie version of his excellent novel, The Quiet American, but after watching The Seventies segment on Vietnam, was curious to see it again.

It's amazing. Set in Saigon in the mid-fifties during the war between colonial France and the communist.  It tells the story of an older, lapsed Catholic (always Greene's favorite) journalist in Saigon (Fowler) who has a Vietnamese mistress. He becomes distressed when a young American doctor providing medical aid comes into the picture and wants Phuong (his mistress). Both men have very fucked up possessive sexist relationships with her. The "love" triangle becomes more complicated as events in Vietnam intensify and the American's role in the conflict becomes more apparent, as General The rises as the "third way". It's a very beautiful, very haunting and disturbing depiction of United States' early involvement and when it ends with news footage (written by Fowler) through the sixties and the carnage, it's impossible not to be weep.

The Seventies

The Seventies is an 8-part documentary series produced by CNN. It covers: 1. The television; 2. Watergate; 3. Vietnam; 4. Crime; 5. The presidencies (Ford and Carter); 6.The feminist movement and sexual revolution; 7. International terrorism; and 8. Music.

As a kid during that decade I didn't really know what was going on but I was aware of it all. And of course as I grew up I learned more and more about the era.

The episode on TV was fun and brought me back and impressed me with how much was innovative, socially relevant, and even radical. Because I am more familiar with the pop culture, this episode seemed a little fast and superficial and seemed to leave much out and not to go into enough detail.

The episodes on Watergate, Vietnam, and Ford to Carter to Reagan, ending the decade, were fascinating to me. Very informative (which perhaps says more about my ignorance), and left me feeling quite sad. I felt emotional when they showed Nixon resigning.

I thought the episode on Crime was very boring and hardly paid attention.

The episode on terrorism also seemed superficial. There were so many intense conflicts, there is no way to cover them all in an hour.

The women's movement episode was interesting, and kind of inspiring, but like the others, I wanted more depth and breadth.

The music episode wasn't that great either. Just sort of a review of different genres as they emerged.

A Dangerous Woman

A Dangerous Woman, starring Debra Winger, is about a woman with some sort of developmental disability (that is never specified). She lives in her young aunt's guest cottage and works at a dry cleaners in a small town. She has great difficulty interacting with others and has frequent outbursts. She is also the subject of abuse and cruelty and injustice. Because she is often ignored, she observes a lot around her and is aware of others' secrets.

The drama begins when she gets fired for stealing from the register at work -- she didn't do it and she knows who did. She becomes obsessed with wanting her friend from work to believe her. At the same time she develops a tender relationship with a carpenter her aunt hires. The relationships all explode, in a pretty awful way, but the resolution is satisfying.

Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend

Mike Birbiglia's comedy special, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend has more the quality of a monologuist than a stand up comedy. He weaves themes together about relationships, love, marriage, etc that come together at the end in a lovely way. It's very funny, but also moving.


I wasn't sure what to expect from Trainwreck. For some reason this mainstream rom-com got quite a bit of press and controversy. I like Amy Schumer and finally got around to seeing it. She plays a writer with a pretty cool but not super important job (she writes for a men's magazine) who drinks a lot and loves no strings attached casual sex. In this part of the movie I thought she was great. She had wonderful lines, said whatever was on her mind, and called out bullshit. Then she falls in love and things start to fall apart both in her life and with the movie. I was bored and disappointed in how she learned to "grow up". Also, the final scene was ridiculous.

The Duchess

I loved The Duchess, a movie about the life of Georgiana, Duchess of York in the 18th Century. It's an emotional drama about a teenage bride from the aristocracy who marries the older, very cold and stiff and mean Duke who only wants her to produce an heir.. Her struggles in her marriage (which eventually becomes a menage a trois with Lady Bess), her involvement in politics, and her own love life and passionate romance outside of the marriage are the focus of the movie.

I thought Keira Knightley's performance was wonderful, she was charming and vulnerable and you could really see her learn and grow. I was so impressed by this movie and curious about Georgiana's life that I downloaded the biography it is based on. It turns out she was a very remarkable woman. I learned a lot about British aristocracy (their sexual antics and gambling issue in particular) and politics (which she was deeply involved in).


Gattaca depicts a dystopian future where genetic science ensures human excellence and people are organized and categorized on the basis of their DNA. Ethan Hawke plays a guy who was born the natural way and who's genetics predict failure. But he is determined to become an astronaut (I found this particularly silly) and works with a genetically superior person who was in an accident to fake his identity. Interesting and boring at the same. Somehow the plot was very predictable. I enjoyed the stylistic filming and look of the whole thing, though.

Begin Again

Begin Again is an enjoyable but forgetable movie about a jaded music producer and an idealistic young singer-songwriter. She is the ex girlfriend of a popular singer who "sold out" and he is divorced from his wife, it seems a result of his drinking and general failure. The relationships in the movie are engaging and the performances solid. I love Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. The way they showed producing an album was so unrealistic that it really took away from my pleasure in an otherwise sweet story.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I liked The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It's a about the Holocaust, presented from the perspective of a young boy who is the son of a high up Nazi. The story takes place after the father moves the family to the country where he is the head of a concentration camp. He tries to keep the truth of what he is doing from his wife and children. The child slowly begins to understand. His enlightenment is aided by a secret friendship with a boy who lives in the camp. His growing awareness of the horror is at odds with his naive and idealistic belief in his father, and the dramatic ending (too dramatic, in my opinion), is a devastating display of both his final refusal to see the truth and his defiance of his father's brutality.