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marvelous mrs maisel

Episode 1: Pilot

Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) has a dream life in the 60’s, she’s married to the love of her life Joel (Michael Zegan) and has two kids.  Joel is a businessman who dreams of being a standup comic, but when he bombs in a comedy club, Midge’s dream life turns into a nightmare.  Joel tells Midge he’s leaving her and having an affair with his secretary, Penny Pann. (Holly Curran)  Drunk and heartbroken, Midge stumbles onto the standup stage, and vents about her cheating husband, and broken marriage.  How does her performance go?

This show starts off slowly with Joel leaving Midge, but the episode gets much funnier after Joel leaves and Midge tries out her standup routine.  The writers seem to emphasize Midge’s Jewishness, I don’t know if they’re trying to be authentic or stereotypical. The acting is good, Rachel Broshnahan stands out, she handles both the comedic aspects and the serious aspects of the part well. Tony Shalhoub, who is usually very funny, overdoes the accent a bit,as Midge’s father.  Alex Borstein from Family Guy is also very funny.

Episode 2: Ya Shivu v Bolshom Dome Na Kholme

Midge is trying to get used to her new life.  Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) is trying to convince her that she should do stand-up, but Midge is convinced that it is a one time thing. Joel’s father, Moishe (Kevin Pollack) and mother Shirley (Caroline Aaron) are upset about their son’s separation from Midge.  They pressure Midge and Joel to get together for dinner.  Midge and Joel get together, how does the dinner go?

This show is funny, and the laughs come in unexpected places .  Kevin Pollack overdoes Moishe a little but the interplay between Pollack and Tony Shalhoub is funny, the parents on the whole are very funny.  But I hope the writers quit the redundancy of Midge getting angry, and then doing what she does best.  It’s like watching the Incredible Hulk and waiting for David Banner to get angry.  It’s getting to be a tied plot device.  Alex Borstein is funny again, and Rachel Broshnahan is very talented.  Not everyone can show all the sides of a character like she has already done.

Episode3:  Because You Left

Midge goes to jail again, and is bailed out by Lenny Bruce. (Luke Kirby)  Midge also gets a lawyer, because she might need one in the future.  Abe and Moishe hatch a plan, and Joel asks Midge a question,  what is her response?

This episode is not as funny as the first two, and that makes me mad, I sense a dramedy coming and that would ruin a perfectly good show. Rachel Broshnahan does one good stand-up routine,  but she’s like some kind of 50’s rebel, hanging out with musicians, smoking dope, what’s next reciting beat poetry? I hope it doesn’t turn into a cliché.

 

Episode 4:  The Disappointment of The Dionne Quintuplets

Midge moves out of her apartment, and moves in with her parents.  Joel moves out of Archie’s (Joel Johnstone) apartment, and moves into his own place.  When  Midge drops Ethan (Matteo Pacale)  off with Joel, she gets a few surprises.  Susie takes Midge to a few clubs to give her a few tips, but when she comes home late, Midge remembers what living with her parents was like.

I don’t want to say this was filler, because it was funny, but it didn’t have the hallmark of the first three episodes, but it did have something that I didn’t like, name dropping, and when I realize how pathetic 50’s stand-up comedy was, the writers really didn’t need to name drop all that much.  Midge talks about changing her name and that leads me to think that this show is based on someone real, and that’s only one person I can think of.  Good performances by Rachel Broshnahan, Alex Borstein, and Marin Hinkle as Midge’s mother.

Episode 5: Doink

Midge goes to work behind the makeup counter at B.Altman’s.  She also bombs for the first time at the club, and hires a comedy writer named Herb Smith (Wallace Shawn) to sharpen her act. Joel takes Penny out to dinner to meet his parents.  How does that go?

This is an interesting episode, because Midge succeeds at something and then fails at something badly, and her failure droves her to do something impulsive.  Joel is not doing any better trying to impress his parents with Penny Pan.  Wallace Shawn is funny as the well-meaning but not funny comedy writer.

Episode 6:  Miss X At The Gaslight

Midge hones her act at B.Altman parties, and she may have a comedy partner, named Randall. (Nate Cordray)  Susie doesn’t lie any of it, the parties, the partner.  Does she do anything about it?  Abe gets a job offer at Bell Labs, and the family goes out to celebrate and unexpectedly runs into someone at the restaurant.

This was a pretty funny episode, but there was some unnecessary drama, and some unnecessary characters introduced in this episode.

Episode 7:  Put That on Your Plate

Abe brings home a colleague.  Joel is in line for a promotion.  Midge has a “tight ten minute set” and she’s set to open for Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) the biggest comedienne in New York.  Sophie gives Midge some advice.  Does she follow the advice?

This is an interesting episode because the women in this episode strike out against the conventional wisdom of the 1950’s.  First Midge’s mom, and then Midge react to external situations not of their own making.

 

Episode 8:Thank You and Good Night

Midge and Joel talk about a divorce, but do their actions suggest something else?  Midge gets blackballed by a powerful   agent.  Midge and Penny fight at B. Altman’s. Joel blows his shot at a business proposal. Midge gets another shot at stand-up, how does she do?

I didn’t like this episode, everything the writers set in motion about women taking charge of their life is suddenly and magically forgotten in this episode, suddenly Joel is calling the shots, and it’s up to Joel whether or not his wife is suitable.  And when everything is pointing to Midge never doing stand-up, suddenly someone appears as a deus ex machina, and her comedy career is back on track.

Season 1 Summary:

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a very funny show that’s very Jewish.  I don’t know if it’s authentically Jewish, or stereotypically Jewish, but sometimes it seems to cross the line between authentically Jewish and stereotypically Jewish more than once. Are people laughing with Jews, or at Jews?  That’s the fundamental dilemma of this series.

The Gentile characters aren’t that well-written either, one is Penny Pan, who is a homewrecker, a dim-wit, and doesn’t have any friends to speak of.  I’m not sure that Joel even likes her.   The other Gentile character is Astrid, Midge’s sister-in-law, who’s converting to Judaism,  so she aspires to be more Jewish than her Jewish husband.

This is also supposed to be a female empowerment show, a girl power type show that proves even in the fifties, women could make it if they fought hard enough.  It is that show for the most part, but the final episode is really disappointing in that respect.  All the power that Midge built with her comedy, and living alone is somehow lost in that last episode.  The writers cede Midge’s power back to the men in her life in the last episode and that’s disappointing.  Separately, the economic fall that Midge encounters is not as precipitous as it should have been, but Midge just moved in with her parents.

I also didn’t like the name dropping of comedians on the show.  Lenny Bruce is on the show as a character, the writers mention Red Skelton, and Redd Foxx, and Buddy Hackett, and comedians that I generally didn’t think were that funny.  Redd Foxx is funny, Red Skelton, Buddy Hackett, not so much, and the way they use Lenny Bruce to advance certain storylines is a cop out.

All this criticism might lead you to believe that I didn’t like the show, but I actually did like the show quite a bit.  I liked it primarily because of two actors.  Rachel Broshnahan is very talented, she handles the serious and the comedic aspects of the show very well.  She does overplay the Jewishness a little but it’s a good role for her and she plays it well.  Alex Borstein is also very funny, uproariously funny at times, very cynical, very New York street smart, nothing phases her, she wants to bond with Midge, but yet she doesn’t want  to open herself up to ridicule.  It’s a different role than her Family Guy role, and she also handles the role well. Tony Shaloub overplays the Jewish dad role, but modulates a bit later on. Kevin Pollack, who is Jewish, wildly overplays the Jewishness of his character.  I also like Marin Hinkle as Rose, Midge’s mom.  I thought she did a nice job understating her role, and her scenes with the tea-leaf reader are hilarious.

I’m wondering how the show will evolve from here, and where these  characters will go in seasons to come.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel:  a-Maise-ing.

 

 

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Stranger Things Season 2:

Posted: November 10, 2017 in horror, TV
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strangerthings 2

Chapter 1:  Madmax

Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) is still having visions of the Upside Down, and he’s seeing a doctor, Dr. Owens (Raul Reiser) to talk about it. Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour) is still worried about Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) but Joyce is dating Bob. (Sean Astin)   Will’s brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) is still carrying a torch for Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) but she’s still dating Steve Harrrigan, (Joe Keely) and mourning Barb. Dustin Galen Materazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) are smitten over the new girl in school, Max, (Sadie Sink  Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) has been searching for Eleven Millie Bobbie Brown) for a year with his walkie talkie, but can’t find her.  Where is she?

Most if not all of the characters are back from Season 1, and I find the show strangely addictive because I want to watch episode two, I didn’t think that the show or the characters were that memorable, but I guess they were.  I also want to see how the new characters fit in to the show as a whole. One of the new storylines widens the scope of the story to beyond Hawkins, Indiana.

Chapter 2: Trick Or Treat You Freak

It’s Halloween 1984, and Mike, Will, Dustin and Lucas dress up as the Ghostbusters, and no one else is dressed up.  Dustin and Lucas ask Max to go trick or treating with them, and she doesn’t want to, until Billy (Dacre Montgomery) almost run the boys over with his Camaro.  Jonathan leaves Will with his friends to go to a teen party where Nancy and Steve are, and things do not go as planned for Nancy or Steve.  Mike is mad that Max is along, and takes Will home after Will has another vision, what is it a vison of?  Eleven is trying to find Mike psychically, but not having any luck. Dustin finds something in his trashcan, what is it?

This is another character driven episode, and the characters are getting more interesting.  There’s also some genuine scares in this episode, as the Duffer brothers turn up the suspense about what’s creeping in the darkness in Indiana.

Chapter 3:  The Pollywog:

Dustin gets a new pet.  Will gets a ride to school from Bob and some advice on how to face his fears. Eleven ventures out to try to meet Mike. Sheriff Hooper tries to get Dr. Owens that something strange isn’t coming from the lab, and destroying local pumpkin crops.  Joyce gets a clue about what’s bothering Will after watching a videotape of Halloween.  Nancy and Jonathan plan to meet with Barb’s mother.

Didn’t Justin see Gremlins?  Don’t feed the pets. The storylines are  getting more and more interesting and the relationships between Max, the boys and Eleven is also getting interesting. The suspense surrounding what Will sees is actually more scary than what he actually sees.  And each show seems to have a cliffhanger, which makes the viewer want to see the next episode.

 

Chapter 4: Will The Wise

Will undergoes physical and emotional changes after his latest vision of the Upside Down. Mike thnks Will has “true vision” but does he, and does that help the party figure out what’s going on in the Upside Down? Dustin’s new pet shows its true colors.  Nancy and Jonathan embark on a plan that goes beyond telling Barb’s mom the truth about Barb’s death.  Mike bans Max from their party.  Eleven throws a tantrum.  Sheriff Hopper has a revelation.

Will’s transformation is more interesting than what he’s actually seen in the Upside Down.  There’s still some mystery about what Jonathan and Nancy are doing, There’s a lot of mystery about Max and Billy.  Who are they really?  I have my theory, let’s see if it pans out.  There is also a mystery about what’s killing the pumpkins.  So there’s lots of intriguing things going on, but I don’t like what the writers have done to Eleven, she’s a petulant child who cries a lot.  The writers have taken the worst stereotypes for girls and combined them all into one girl.  They’ve also made Dustin extremely dumb, and he’s the one who knows the most about alternate dimensions, so it doesn’t make sense that he would be the gullible one.

Chapter 5: Dig Dug

Hopper gets in way over his head.  Nancy and Jonathan meet someone outside Hawkins to help them with their plan.  Eleven tries to meet someone from her past.  Joyce tries to find Hopper with help from Will and Mike.  Lucas tries to make up with Max.  Dustin forms an unlikely partnership with Steve.

I like that Joyce is actually getting the kids involved in looking for Hopper.  I don’t like the Eleven storyline at all, more crying and emotional upheaval.  I don’t think the Jonathan/Nancy storyline is going anywhere, It’s just an episode extender.  I don’t know where the Max/Lucas story is going, but I also have a theory on that, related to my other Max and Billy theory.

Chapter 6:  The Spy

Will is taken to the hospital.  He says his skin is burning, but there are no burn marks on his body.  Is it his psychic connection that’s making him feel things no one else is feeling? Steve and Dustin go hunting for Dustin’s pet. Jonathan and Nancy get sidetracked on their road trip.  Max and Lucas join Steve and Dustin in their search.

In an episode, Stranger Things has turned into a conventional horror flick.  A little teen and pre-teen romance to divert people’s attention, but it’s basically a garden variety horror flick.   The writers inexplicably have taken the best elements from last year, Eleven, and the government conspiracy, and put them on the shelf.

Chapter 7: The Lost Sister

Visions take Eleven to Chicago in search of someone else from Hawkins Lab.

Having done the horror genre, the writers try the revenge fantasy genre, and it lands with a thud. Even the writers realize this is a waste of time.  This is a total filler episode.  It tries to squeeze in a twist, but no one can tell if the twist is real or not. This is disappointing.  A show that had so much promise two episodes ago, is now circling the drain.  The mystery character was better as a mystery.  The bulk of the acting is done by Millie Bobbie Brown and another young actress.  Bad idea.

Chapter 8:  The Mind Flayer

Everyone is trapped in Hawkins Lab with the mire and more creatures that look like Dustin’s pet.  Meanwhile, Will is suffering as his visions manifest inside him.

I think the problem with these final episodes is that the writers revealed things too quickly, and now they are employing a deus ex machina ending because everyone else is helpless to stop the situation from spiraling out of control. This is pretty unimaginative writing.

Chapter 9:  The Gate

Eleven has to close the portal to the Upside Down before what is lurking there comes to the surface, there is something that has to happen first.  Will she be able to close the portal in time?

The ending is predictable, and again relies on Eleven as the deus ex machina to get the rest of Hawkins Indiana out of deep doo doo.

The show on the whole was disappointing on the whole, partly because it was so engaging and good for the first half of season 2 and then episode 6 happened and the bottom fell out.  It reminded me of so many movies and shows that it stopped being original.  There are parts that feel like Gremlins , Pacific Rim, Poltergiest, Jurassic Park, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek The Next Generation, The Host, and many others.  The writers changed the most important elements of the show, Eleven and the government conspiracy, change those two things and the show is just like any other show.

The teen characters were more engaging this time around.  I liked Jonathan and Nancy, the writers even made Steve more sympathetic, and give him a new rival, Billy.  Billy seems to have a giant chip on his shoulder and I’m not really sure why.  I like Maxine, but I don’t like what the writers did to Eleven/Jane, I liked season 1 Eleven much more.  The writers seemed to make Dustin a lot dumber than season 1, and Mike was given a smaller role, and Will was given a bigger role this season, that was a mistake.

I also think the writers were too quick to put these characters in romantic situations. Mike was pining for Eleven in many episodes, Dustin and Lucas became romantic rivals, and there’s already a love triangle between Steve, Nancy and Jonathan.  These budding romances are fillers for when the writers don’t have enough horror content.

Winona Rider and David Harbour were excellent.  Ryder played worried mom Joyce Byers to a tee, but she was also figuring things out, and that was a new dimension.  David Harbor plays Chief Hopper very well, he’s trying to balance the strange things going on, with an added responsibility.  Sean Astin was a fun character a nerdy guy who the kids really don’t like, who evolves later on. Paul Reiser was miscast, I don’t know if he was a hero, a villain, or comedy relief, he certainly didn’t have the intensity of Matthew Modine. Millie Bobby Brown was not as good this year as last,  that had a lot to do with the writing of her character. Dacre Montgomery plays Billy as a little bit of a psycho, and I really don’t  know why he was written the way he was. I like Sadie Sink, she had a good mix of comedy and drama in her role, and she played both well.

The plot was intriguing until episode six, in my opinion, and then it just became too derivative of other movies and shows and became a conventional horror show with monsters.  And of course there is going to be a season three, because portals to other dimensions have a habit of opening, just when everyone thinks everything is fine.  Besides Stranger Things is making a lot of money for Netflix.

Did I like Season 2 as much as Season One, in a word, no.  I thought Season two limped to the finish with a predictable and conventional ending.  Keeping Eleven apart from the party really hurt the second season. Dr. Owens is much less menacing than Dr. Bremmer and that hurts the second season as well.  Justice for Barb the hot new internet hashtag, was tacked on like an afterthought. Mad Max was supposed to be this take no prisoners girl from California, but the character turned out to be much less than meets the eye.  Let’s hope for better in season 3.

Stranger Things 2: After a good start, it goes to the demi-dogs.

TV Review: Black Mirror Season 1

Posted: November 10, 2017 in Drama, TV
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black mirror

Episode 1:  The National Anthem

British Prime Minister Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) is faced with the kidnapping of Princess Susannah, (Lydia Wilson) the video cannot be traced, neither can the man or group responsible for the kidnapping.  The kidnapper has an audacious demand?  Does the Prime Minister comply?

The kidnapper’s demand seems like a joke, so it’s hard to take the premise seriously, so right away this episode gets off on the wrong foot, and it never regains its footing.  Doesn’t the royal family have the guards at Buckingham Palace?  What were they doing, sleeping?  This episode does say something about the British, it tells anyone who watches it how much the British love the Royal Family.  It also makes some trite, overbaked comments about the power of “social media” that no one needs to hear again. The ending was almost an afterthought, so this episode doesn’t rate very highly with me.  Not a good way to start a Twilight Zone type series.

Episode 2: 15 Million Merits

Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) lives in a society where everyone has to pedal an exercycle to power the electrical needs of society at large.  Every time Bing peddles, he earns credits, called merits, which he can use to buy things, like tchotchkes for his avatar, or pornographic videos.  The big prize is a ticket to Hot Shot, a talent show, broadcast nationwide.  That ticket costs a cool 15 million merits.  One day, while in the bathroom he hears a girl named Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay) singing a song.  Bing thinks Abi has a beautiful voice, and buys her a ticket to Hot Shots.

What happens to Abi at Hot Shots?  How does Bing react?

Bicycles and reality show television.  The future is bleak indeed.  I’m the first to slam show like American Idol, it has pretty much decimated rock music, but once again this show takes the things that annoy people about today’s culture, endless talents shows, avatars, and anonymous rating pf people, and makes it extreme, to the point that nothing rings true, and the situation becomes an absurdist one.  The romance between Bing and Abi seems rushed and insincere.  Daniel Kaluuya, who was great in Get Out, seems uninteresting and uninterested in this role.  Kaluuya is great in Get Out, not so much here.

Episode 3:  The Entire History of You

Liam (Toby Kebbell) lives in a society where all memories can be recalled through a microchip implanted near the ear.  Liam flies in to join a party thrown by his wife Fi. (Jodie Whittaker)  Fi is paying particular attention to an ex-flame named Jonas, (Tom Cullen) and it bothers Liam, so he asks her how long she was involved with him, and she says that it was only a week.  But Liam persists and finds out that they were involved for more than 6 months.

Incensed, he goes to see Jonas and asks him to erase all his memories of Fi, or he will remove Jonas’ microchip forcefully.  Faced with the threat of physical harm, Jonas complies.  Then Liam confronts Fi about the paternity of their son.  How does Fi respond?  What is the truth?

This is probably the best of the three episodes in season one, because it deals with a real issue in a futuristic context.  The issue of infidelity has been a problem, and will be a problem in the future.  But would people really want to prove infidelity by digging into your spouse’s memories?  That’s the more interesting question.  The story is one sided, however, because the viewer never sees Liam’s past relationships, so there is a bit of a double standard there.  Also the story reminds me a bit of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. In that movie Jim Carrey wanted to forget a bad relationship, in this episode, Toby Kebbell wants to use memories to find the truth about his marriage.  The story drags a bit, but good acting from Kebbell and Cullen keep things interesting.

Overall, season one was not very good, the storylines were weak, the first story was especially difficult to take seriously.  The second was equally hard to believe, for different reasons.  Both stories tried to talk about the evils of social networking, to little avail.  Only the third episode resonates, because it deals with  a serious issue that any married couple fears.

20170114_LCK _MG_2740.CR2

Louis CK talks about suicide, abortion, religion and his kids.

Talking about abortion and suicide is not the way most comedians would open a comedy show, but Louis CK opens his comedy special talking about precisely those topics.  And guess what, he’s funny talking about suicide and abortion, at least I thought he was funny.  Some people might be incredibly offended,  and that’s your choice, turn it off ten minutes in.  There is material he did that did not work for me, but he is always taking risks with his material, and I respect that.  Most of the material did make me laugh, so the fact that it unique and funny, that makes Louis CK a very talented comedian. It’s also important to note that this routine was filmed in Washington DC, I don’t know that these jokes would go over so well in Texas or Kansas. It’s important to know your audience, and Louis knows his audience.

Now that doesn’t mean this special is for everyone, there is bad language,  and topics discussed that aren’t for everyone.  In fact, he does voices, that might offend some people, but if the viewer has watched to the point where he starts to do the voices, the viewer thinks CK is funny anyway.  And if the viewer doesn’t like the voices, he or she might find something funny later.

There is nothing going on from a director’s point of view, just Louis CK talking to the audience.  I do not know if any of the material was edited, but it didn’t look like it. He just seems to be talking to the audience.

Louis CK:  See it,’K?

dave chappelle

The star of Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s show talks about Bill Cosby, Kevin Hart, the LGBTQ community, and his four meetings with O.J, Simpson.

I like Dave Chapelle, not his stupid movies, like Half Baked, but I loved his show Chappelle’s  Show, precisely because it was edgy and dangerous.  He took what people were thinking and said them, and that’s why I liked his show, and he said things that no one would think of saying and said them anyway.  Some people may not like him because of his controversial humor, but that’s why I like him.

This brings me to this special.  Some of this special is very funny and made me laugh out loud, but some of it is not funny at all.  Here’s my take, when someone is TRYING to be funny, I can tell, it doesn’t sound natural, and Dave Chappelle was trying to be funny in some instances in this special.  The thing is, he doesn’t have to try so hard to be funny, he just is funny.  At times he sounded like he was giving a history lesson, and that is definitely not fun. Maybe age has mellowed him, there’s a big difference between a 40 something comedian and a 30 something comedian.  Maybe my expectations for Chappelle were too high, sometimes expectations are difficult to live up to.  I disagree with Dave Chappelle’s views on Kevin Hart, and Key and Peele, but comedy is subjective, even for comedians.  There’s some good material here, but is it top flight jokes for an hour?  No.

Morgan Freeman narrates the opening, but that’s the only really distinctive aspect of the special from the director’s point of view. Other than that, it’s Chappelle talking to the audience.

Chappelle juices up his new special.

TV Review: Newtown (2016)

Posted: April 10, 2017 in Documentary, TV

newtown

Newtown features interviews with parents, teachers, siblings, and first responders regarding some of the victims of the mass shooting in Newtown Connecticut in 2012.

The first images he viewer sees in this documentary is police speeding to the scene of the mass shooting in Newtown Connecticut, and the first voices viewers hear are that of the desperately frightened faculty talking about the shocking crime.   On December 14th 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 elementary school kids and 6 teachers in Newtown Elementary School.  The pain is seared in the voices of the parents, the siblings, the first responders and everyone else related to this tragedy.  Expressing that pain is somehow cathartic for these people, but I doubt if they will ever have closure for the horrible events.  Closure has become a media term of art, it signifies when the media wants to move on from an issue.  The documentary is an excellent example of television as catharsis, and for showing the difference between catharsis and closure, but Newtown has shortcomings.

For all its earnestness, this documentary is far from perfect.  First, it gets into the political exploits of some of the Newtown parents.  Politics is broken, If we as a nation can’t keep guns out of the hands of the criminally insane, there is no reason to replay the dysfunction of the American political system. Some of us already that know some issues will never be addressed by Congress.  It just adds to the pain of the Newtown massacre to know that Congress is unwilling to do anything to address gun violence.

In addition, the documentary doesn’t mention all the victims.  The crime involved 26 people, yet the documentary only interviews a few relatives of the victims.  OK, maybe all the relatives don’t want to get interviewed, but the filmmakers didn’t even show pictures of all the victims.  It would seem to be the humane thing to do to show the faces and read the names of all the victims.  Also, it would show the enormous scope of the violence that was perpetrated in that school.

The most glaring omission of all was the fact that the filmmakers didn’t mention the names of the killer or his mother.  There is obviously a fear of a copycat crime, but not mentioning the killer or his mother, who gave him access to the guns, is editorializing by the filmmakers.  The job of a documentary filmmaker is to lay out all the facts, not omit facts where they see fit.

Newtown is replete with emotion, but it seemed incomplete to me.

Newton:  Painful catharsis.

 

RachelCarson

From a very young age Rachel Carson liked to write.  At age 10, she became a published writer, her mother sold off the family possessions so Rachel could go to college. After college, she landed a research position in Woodhole Massachusetts.  It was there where she fell in love with biology.    Tragedy in her personal life forced her to get a job in the US Bureau of Fisheries, she sells some articles based on her work to local newspapers, omitting her first name at times to avoid sexism.  Then Simon and Shuster offered her an opportunity to write a book.  The book was Under The Sea Wind.  However, World War II interfered with the sale of the book.  At the same time, science was growing by leaps and bounds, a chemical called DDT was used in large quantities to end the scourge of malaria. Rachel Carson was skeptical of the effects of DDT on wildlife, but no one was interested in her point of view.

Five years after the end of WWII, Carson got the itch to write another book, she did this by synthesizing research papers into from the Fish and Wildlife Department into a book called The Sea Around Us .  The New Yorker Magazine serialized the book.  Three weeks after it went on sale, it landed on the New York Times bestseller list, by September 1951 it as number 1 on the bestseller list, it spent 32 weeks at number one. At the same time, science is exploding, literally. In 1954, America did a hydrogen bomb test, and DDT type pesticides were proliferating.  After a extensive period of writer’s block, In 1955, Carson finished, her third book, The Edge of The Sea , another book about marine biology.

In 1957, the pesticide companies had found a new pest to eradicate, the fire ant.  Planes sprayed insecticides through wide swatches of the Southern portions of America.  Not only ants died, fish and birds also perished. The widespread use of pesticides and the death of wildlife is a call to action for Rachel Carson. In 1958, Carson was already deeply into researching her future book against pesticides.  In 1960, her mother died shortly after having a stroke. Also in 1960, Carson discovered lumps in her body, her doctor told her not to worry, by the time Carson checked her body again, she did indeed have cancer and it had metastasized all over her body.  Now it was a race against the clock, would she finish her new book before she succumbed to cancer?

This is an incredible documentary about an incredible woman.  First of all, I know nothing about Rachel Carson, so it was an educational experience for me.  Just the story of her life, the fact that she was a woman in the 1950’s, writing about the ocean in a knowledgeable way was really intriguing.  The 40’s and 50’s in America are known as an era of conformity, and Carson was anything but a conformist.  The issue of pesticides was always a subject of interest for Carson, but only came to the forefront after the government tried to eradicate the fire ant.  After that point, she became a woman on a mission.

The documentary also delved deeply into Carson’s personal life, her relationship with her mother, her difficulties with other members of her family, her relationship with a neighbor, and most importantly, her struggles with cancer.  The story then becomes a race against time and that adds urgency to the story.

This documentary provides an interesting contrast between the total faith that government, and corporate America had in science in the 1940’s 50’s, and 60’s and the total lack of faith in science in today’s American government.  Rachel Carson was a voice of healthy skepticism, but now our government seems filled to the brim with science deniers.

Rachel Carson, a pest to the insecticide industry.