Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Piers Morgan Tonight

Replacing CNN’s Larry King, Piers Morgan is breathing fresh air into CNN’s late night schedule. Gruff, like King, can work for me, but it was time for something new and fresh. I had never heard of Morgan, but his first week’s line up with Oprah piqued my curiosity. Her line “Oh, you’re good,” sold me on giving this new show a chance. If Oprah thinks and interviewer is good, he must be. I like how Morgan interviewed her asking good and sometimes tough questions, without being aggressive. He’s respectful and intelligent with more polish than King.

Today I caught his interview of the famed Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, whose suit against Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was portrayed in “The Social Network.” Morgan asked the questions I’d want to ask and challenged these young men as to why they still are seeking more money, why they still say Zuckerberg stole their idea, why they haven’t moved on and what they thought of the movie. Morgan challenges his subjects without being a jerk or patsy. His gets the tone just right and the British polish and idioms, which add to the appeal.

On the Winklevoss interview, I did think, “Just move on boys.” They claim it’s all about principles and that now there’s new evidence that shows that they deserve a bigger cut of the Facebook pie. It sure is hard to buy that. Their idea, even as they presented it, was for a social network for Harvard students. Facebook’s success is due to it’s openness, not the exclusivity the twins had in mind. Also, as I watched, I just agreed with Piers and the Harvard president’s character in the movie - move on and come up with the next idea. Yet they clung to the “it’s the principle” response. I just couldn’t live with myself and if I had a son (note not a daughter) who got ripped off by a business associate, how could I look him in the eye as I hadn’t fought for these rights and protections for the American business person yada, yada, yada.

I did like that Piers asked how much it was about money and how much about principle and followed up by saying, well, if it’s about principle, you’d be giving the money to charity . . .

On the movie they said they liked it as a film, but that the inner turmoil shown in Zuckerberg’s character. They contend he lacks that depth. Hmm.

In the end the Zuckerberg’s came off as guys who’re just stuck and hurt because they feel they’ve been cheated. They see their case as a fight for justice and insist that one must fight all injustice. Seems they didn’t learn to “choose one’s battles” at Harvard.

The interview was intriguing and Zuckerberg was invited to participate, but he refused. Morgan has an open invitation for him.
After this interview, Morgan welcomed Michael Oher, whose life was portrayed in the film The Blind Side. I just caught a bit of that. Oher has written a book and wanted to show that Hollywood, as it does, adjusted the truth to make a good drama. He did not need the young son, to teach him football plays using jam and ketchup bottles. He wasn’t as stupid as the movie shows. It was mildly interesting and I think the producers were right to put these two interviews on together and the time allotment was good. The Winklevoss claim is interesting, but after awhile they got repetitive. As a viewer the repetition was interesting in that it shows how these young men think and how stuck they are.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The King's Speech

Since I'd heard such high praise for The King's Speech and I knew what it was about, I figured I'd enjoy this movie, but not be blown away. Well, it is a terrific movie so it does succeed in living up to high expectations.

As I knew, it's the story of Prince (later King) Albert, whose speech impediment is a curse considering he's a royal and even the second son needs to make speeches on occasion. The film closely tracks Bertie's struggles and his relationship with a controversial, unorthodox speech therapist. During this era stronger stories and persons fill the history books: Prince Edward whose romance with Mrs. Simpson can easily fascinate and Winston Churchill are off to the side in this story, though in history they are front and center. As a history buff, I enjoyed seeing this small story told well. We get caught up in Bertie's struggle and admire him for persevering. Lionel, his therapist, gets to push and prod royalty, which is like dancing in a mine field. He always respects Bertie, but knows that brutal honesty is needed for success with this patient.

The script is spare, very Aristotelean, I'd say as it focuses on the primary relationships and we root for Bertie to face his demons and disability. Helena Bonham-Carter plays Prince Albert's wife with understatement and loyalty. Though I did wonder how they got together and how she saw past Bertie's stutter when they first met. The only actor I didn't like played Winston Churchill. Granted, that's a hard role as Churchill had such a strong persona overacting is a real danger. Luckily, Churchill's not on screen much.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1

Well, I haven't read the books or seen any of the Harry Potter films in their entirety. I just haven't gotten into them. Yet when a hostess in Korea suggested going to the latest Harry Potter film, I couldn't refuse. It would make for a good activity to do with your first foreign guest.

I didn't expect to like the film much. I knew I would miss out on some of the backstory, yet since the film is steeped in pop culture even if you haven't read the books you know about the main characters and thrust of the work. Also any good film will provide most of what a new entrant to a series needs to know. That was the case with this movie.

I found I did like the characters and was interested in their relationships. The story fits the genre and kept me interested. I did think some scenes, like when Harry's red haired friend, feels jealous of Harry and Hermione, or as I think of her "the girl." The voice over of his fears was a bit heavy handed. I remind myself that this story is targeted to teens and kids so the author does want them to understand the dynamics so I try to keep the critic in my head at bay. I did think the main villain with the weird nose was well done. There's a lots of clever magic bits like fruit that flies and wacky homes and newspapers with photos that move and I liked all that.

In some parts I felt the film was a lot like the Lord of the Rings, another series I've skipped but know of due to its general popularity. The effects are good, state of the art CGI, but there's a thing about CGI. No matter how sophisticated they are I can spot them as CGI and while I'm watching them I'm fully aware that I am and evaluate them as such. They stop me from suspending my disbelief till their through. Why is that?

I did like this film and would see another Harry Potter film in a theater. I don't think a DVD viewing would keep me interested.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Tom Shadyac, an extremely successful Hollywood director, had all the toys and luxuries that money could buy but still wasn't happy.  Then he had a mountain biking accident which left him with post-concussive syndrome.  As he dealt with his injuries and continued to question, he set out on a journey that resulted in the uplifting documentary, I AM.  

I AM illustrates its message, "We're all connected" persuasively in scientific and straightforward terms.  It makes the case that cooperation, not competition, is far more important to the Darwinian world we inhabit and that the smallest of actions can have impact.  Rather than be paralyzed by the enormity of the problems, I AM encourages us to act with empathy and sympathy.

Shadyac did a Q&A session after the movie and I was impressed with the level of intelligence present in his discourse.  Some in the audience wished to take his message into the realm of new age spirituality and Shadyac did an admirable job of validating their views while still maintaining a grounded realism.  It seems to me that there is something to this idea that while we can't yet scientifically explain it, we are all connected on a physical, biological but mysterious level.  He uses an Einstein example of two spinning atoms separated by a great distance, each of which simultaneously mirrors changes made in the other's rotation.  We don't yet understand why it occurs, but we know it does.  The linear, rational being that I am appreciated Shadyac's well-reasoned argument.

I saw the movie, What the #$*! Do We Know, a few years back and left the theater feeling like I had just been fed a bunch of weird mumbo-jumbo.  It was just too over the top.  I AM strikes me as similar but much more plausibly presented than What the #$*! Do We Know. 

And taking its message to heart can't hurt.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dr. Zhivago

Monday I finished watching Doctor Zhivagothe 1965 version with Julie Christie and Omar Sharif. Although the movie omitted some parts that even our highly abridged Penguin Reader had, I was swept up in the story. It's an epic and director David Lean captures the immensity of Russia. There's restraint and passion so you don't feel like you've had to check your intelligence at the door when you come to see Yuri and Lara together.

The end of the novel was chopped off. We don't see Yuri's lassitude and his third woman. Also, the BBC mini-series which I just saw a couple hours, is far clearer in Lara's mother's character flaws and Victor Komarovsky's exploitation of Lara. In that version, Lara really looks like a school girl, while Christie looks more like a woman during that part of the film.

The film is filled with captivating images. It deserves to be a classic and is perfect to watch on a winter's night. I can't forget seeing the deserted estate house, shown below:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Social Network

Wow! Only Aaron Sorkin could write a movie about a sedentary, geeky life of a computer whiz (who's kind of a jerk, to put it mildly) and have an audience so rapt.

The Social Network's themes of revenge, desire and betrayal are compelling to say the least. The dialog is smart and rapid fire, like The West Wing though not as funny. It's a fascinating look at a man who's changing how we relate and connect in a big way. Just fascinating. I'm thinking of seeing it again next weekend, that proves this is good. Jesse Eisenberg was remarkable as Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, who's the quintessential nerd, but still commanded my interest.

I hope this gets some Oscar attention and wins best screenplay.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Glee: My New Favorite Show

There's so much good TV right now. Bridget, if you're reading this it was a good time to buy a television. One reason I say this is Fox's Glee,the smart, funny musical show that mixes comedy and drama to entertain and satirize. Like many American shows it's set in a high school and looks at the lives a teens and tho adults who touch their lives. Glee satirizes the pecking order of high school, the deification of athletes and the ridicule various "losers" face. The music is amazing week after week. I love how the show blends all genres: broadway, rock, rap, funk, you name it. The characters, while played over-the-top, are inspired. I love how they all are full of contradictions. Even the villan has more to her than you think. The writers are masters at surprise and can play off any stereotype you give them. The lines are fantastic. They aren't above making fun of the show and cast as is the case in the final episode when one of the Regional judges, Olivia Newton John, sneers at the tokenism of our team, the New Directions. They're not afraid to have a real live non-PC villian as guests and regulars.