Saturday, December 18, 2021

Film review: National Geographic's 'Rescue,' highly recommended.

You know the ending, but do you know how they got there?

It's a chilling and scary story, told in an excellent National Geographic documentary, The Rescue, about the 2018 saga of 12 boys and their assistant soccer coach who scurried inside a Northern Thailand cave which flooded, trapping them for more than two weeks.

Cave divers from around the world joined members of the Royal Thai Navy Seals and the U.S. Air Force Special Tactics in attempts to save the team.

Manmade forces juggled with Mother Nature and certain forecast monsoon rains in the breathtaking rescue race.

Experts on the ground doubted the know-how of two "old men" in flip flops and shorts, skilled underwater astronauts, who began to doubt their own abilities to rescue the team.

Forced by persistence and beliefs of the Thai people who believed the boys could be saved, 10,000 persons ultimately aided in the recovery efforts. 

The rescuers contacted a doctor friend in Australia to request that he consider administering sedatives to the boys to get them out, but the doctor resisted. He couldn't do it; the possibility was crazy.

But like the Thai people who would not give up believing in miracles, the cave divers would not give up asking the doctor until he agreed and journeyed to Thailand.
Cave divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen from The Rescue/National Geographic

Splices of tape show the 24/7 actions underwater which become a horror show, ultimately ending in death.

Each of the star rescuers is interviewed at length; they describe their backgrounds growing up, when some were bullied, and many were loners, like the nerds at my high school who became the biggest achievers.

What is missing in this tale is why and how the boys went into the cave, why they went so far and why their coach led them.

Since Netflix retained rights to the boys' stories, no first-person accounts by any of them are included in the National Geographic film, an unnoticed absence, save the reasons for their entering the cave in the first place.

That the boys and their coach survived underground for up to 17 days is astonishing and shows what can happen if you "believe" and do not give up.

The film fulfills National Geographic's goals: To "support a diverse, international community of changemakers ...who use the power of science, exploration, education, and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world."

Take a hanky (or more than one). I figured I'd cry in the show. I did.

Husband and wife team, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, directed and produced the film with producers John Battsek, PJ van Sandwijk, Bob Eisenhardt (also, editor).

Daniel Pemberton's music is out of this world.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Tom Brady deflated my Florida Christmas

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My sister invited me down to her condo near Orlando for Christmas.  


I was only going to stay two nights.  My mother used to say, "guests upset the routine."  I didn't want to wear out my welcome. Besides, my sister had canceled her invitation to me for two years running, so the thought that this visit, too, might not make, seemed a real possibility. 

Not long after she invited me down for Christmas the first time, she wrote at the last minute, "You can get a motel; I don't feel like having anyone visit."

Okay. At that pre-covid time, last-minute prices for area hotels ran a few dollars higher than the cost if you reserved early.

I didn't go.

The next time when she invited me again, another cancellation arrived at the last minute: "I feel sick and you'll have to find somewhere else to stay."  

Okaaayyyyyy.... I did go then and stayed at a dinky motel to see my other sister who lives near Orlando, too, in a 40-year-old leaky trailer which brings us to this year...

A few weeks passed before Condo Sister texted one Monday that her weekend had not been great.  Even her football teams had lost.

How was I supposed to know she was a fan of Cheatin' Tom?

Had I only clicked my brain tab for "refresh," I would have likely remembered that she just might be a Patriots' fan since she had been a longtime resident of New England, and who likes the Patriots and Cheatin' Tom outside New England?  

Well, I guess Tampa fans do now.

At the time, we up here in DCland were lords a-leaping and ladies dancing (still are!) over Washington Football Team's defeat of Cheatin' Tom and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (29-19).

I texted my sister back:  We are celebrating in DC!  The Washington Football Team beat Cheatin' Tom! (Read all about it here.)


"How dare you!" she texted back.  "There you go again, spouting all that Biden and Pelosi stuff!  I'll just spend Christmas by myself!"


Biden and Pelosi are mouthing the Cheatin' Tom stories, too?  That was a new one on me.

Fortunately, my bags (and I, with credits) fly free on Southwest which did not penalize me for another cancellation. 

After hearing the Tom Brady story, my son texted:  "Come to Nashville, Mom.  You can spend Christmas with us."

Florida is such a gawdawful state anyway with mosquitoes, high temperatures, boring seasons, alligators wandering every whichaway, hurricanes, snakes, no landscapes, humidity, election results that skew crazy, and....... Tom Brady!  

Who needs it?

Thanks, William!  And it's off to Music City I fly!  (Go, Titans!) 

Merry Christmas, Everybody! This Christmas homeless has found a place to celebrate the season, after all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Film review: 'Las Siameses,' one of the year's best

At the movie's end, the man behind me said, "I feel like I've been to the dentist and had all my teeth pulled."

I felt like I had seen a masterpiece.

I nominate Las Siamesas for "Best International Feature Film" and Rita Cortese for "Best Performance by an Actress in an International Feature Film." She plays the mother, and Valeria Lois is the daughter who does a pretty good job herself in the movie about a mother/daughter relationship.

The Siamese Bond made its DC debut last weekend at Gala Hispanic Theatre where the Gala Film Fest presented six movies by female filmmakers in this "Latin American Innovation."

Las Siamesas is a black comedy which produces audience guffaws with hard-hitting lines the mom and daughter exchange while on a bus trip to the shore to see apartments which the daughter has inherited from her father.

The bus ride takes a back seat to the relationship, but its momentum heightens expectations.

Daylight gradually wanes, travelers disembark from the bus, and all that remains are 
the two women, two drivers and the audience, a voyeuristic passenger on an existential journey leading (surprise!) to a breakdown.

The ride darkens.

And where there is darkness, loneliness, and consenting adults, there is fire.

The sex scene is the best I can recall, one directed from a woman's perspective without male directors' obligatory exposed breasts. Thank you, Director Paula Hernandez.

The first kiss, the hidden skin, shadows, movements, the passion. Leaving much to the imagination which is as it should be and makes for a better experience.

Listen to the hum of the bus and the magnificent score. That cello! To perfectly match the mood and emphasize the turmoils the daughter and the mother endure.

What appears to be a simple set intensifies the script.

It's bleak, it's funny, it's sad, and arouses emotions, all the moving parts necessary for a successful film. Okay, so maybe the pauses could have been shortened, but otherwise, what to improve?

Las Siamesas has been nominated for several international awards with a victory claimed by Director Hernandez who wrote the script with Leonel D'Agostino.

On another night at the Festival, I saw Ya Me Voy (I'm Leaving Now) by Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda filmed over two years in Brooklyn, about an undocumented immigrant who wrestles with going home or staying in New York where he can continue his relationships and his collections. It's highly recommended, too, but it was Las Siamesas which drove my fingers to the keyboard.

All films are in Spanish with English subtitles. Carlos Gutierrez curated.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Book review: 'The Columnist' by Donald A. Ritchie, highly recommended for journalism scholars

Who's the Drew Pearson now? I can think of no one who fits the bill.

Drew Pearson (1897-1969) was a muckraking journalist who helped send four members of the U. S. Congress to prison, had two U.S. senators censured and was not timid when it came to writing and broadcasting scandals, making a few mistakes along the way, but, hey! Who's perfect?

The Columnist: Leaks, Lies, and Libel in Drew Pearson's Washington is a must for journalism students and 20th century American history buffs who need or want another revealing look inside what makes Washington tick.

Mr. Pearson was a man who dug deep, who persisted, who was hated by most of the presidents he covered, including
President Harry S. Truman who threatened to shoot Mr. Pearson because of the columnist's criticism of Truman's daughter and wife. (Pearson predicted a Thomas Dewey win.)

Pearson was unafraid of lawsuits and was sued many times, losing only once.

The infamous Joseph McCarthy, feared by most, bore the wrath of Mr. Pearson's writings and broadcasts.
Pearson stood firm in his denunciation of McCarthy but Pearson had advantages most did not: He had a bully pulpit with his column, radio and TV broadcasts, comparing McCarthy's tactics to Salem's witch-burnings.

At Washington's fancy Sulgrave Club, the demagogic McCarthy physically attacked Pearson at a dinner party until stopped by none other than U.S. Senator Richard M. Nixon.

Some of Pearson's sponsors were intimidated by his attacks on McCarthy and dropped his radio broadcasts. His anti-McCarthy crusade
cost Pearson his friendship with the columnist Walter Winchell whom Pearson labeled a "McCarthy cheerleader."

Upon Pearson's death, Jack Anderson (1922-2005), a Pearson protégé and Pulitzer Prize winner, took over the column and renamed it, "Washington Merry-Go-Round. Although Wikipedia claims it's the longest-running column in American history, the most recent column I could find is dated July 15, 2021.

The book has a striking cover, is well researched, and its 367 pages include 90 of index, an extensive bibliography, and notes. The author, Donald A. Ritchie, is historian emeritus of the U.S. Senate.