joi, 28 februarie 2019

Tender Mercies by Horton Foote - 10 out of 10

Tender Mercies by Horton Foote
10 out of 10

Tender Mercies may be the perfect example of a cinematic masterpiece that is simple, conservative, does not have car chases – although there are a couple of tragic accidents – and anything that keep the franchises of the Avengers, Transformers, X Men and so many others going for ever.

By a strange coincidence – albeit if we make the effort to see great films and avoid the mass market Avengers and Fast Furious one to twenty five, we are likely to see films by the same geniuses – this viewer has just seen on Cinemax Breaker Morant and after two days there comes another spectacular feature helmed by the same outstanding director: Bruce Beresford.
Tender Mercies has won two Oscars and Horton Foote, who has written the screenplay for To Kill a Mocking Bird, has won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Written Directly for the Screen.

It is included on the New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list:

Robert Duvall has the main role, for which he won a very well deserved Academy Award – one of the seven he was nominated for, this being the artist that has had some of the best performances ever in iconic films like The Godfather – if not the best, then one of the five best ever made – Apocalypse Now, the Apostle and sometimes lesser films like The Judge.
This wonderful performer has won four Golden Globes, Emmy, BAFTA and another 56 prestigious prizes.

The iconic master talks in videos you can find on YouTube about the experience of working with various other legends, Marlon Brando and the manner in which the filmmakers had to write his lines on the walls, the ceiling and sometimes the other members of the cast because the titan would not learn his part by heart, at least from one stage in his career on.
Robert Duvall is Mac Sledge, the main character that in the opening scenes seems to be a drunkard – well, he is for a good part of his life – and the public is thinking that this might be a personage that will teach us lessons along the lines of what not to do with our lives.

Destitute as he is, broke and without perspectives, he walks to the gas station nearby and asks the owner, Rosa Lee played with grace, skill and charm by Tess Harper, to give him a job.
Rosa Lee is a widower, her husband has died as a very young man – they had married when she was just sixteen – in the Vietnam War, although she does not know how, for when she asked, she was told that they just found his cadaver in a zone where three battles where ongoing, he might have died in one of those or he could have been shot by a sniper while walking.

She has a son, Sonny, who seems to be about six, who would get along well with Mac Sledge, although the relationship of the man with his only daughter is not as good, indeed, he had not seen her in seven years and she is now a beautiful, grown up woman who will try to re-establish their natural connection.
We learn that the character that seemed to be just an alcoholic was once a star of country music, admired by many people – once in a while he is stopped and with humor, one fan asks if he really “was” Mac Sledge – to the fury of his former wife, Dixie, who upon being told that he was the greatest, she throws whiskey in the face of the one who had said that – just to spite her, she claims.

Dixie still sings and is very appreciated as a country musician, but the marriage has ended up in acrimony – when Sue Anne, their daughter played by the formidable Ellen Barkin, asks if it is true that her father had once tried to kill her mother, Mac admits it is true, for when drunk, which he was so often, he lost his senses.
Mac Sledge and Rosa Lee become very attached and their love leads to matrimony, with the former alcoholic gradually getting rid of his awful addiction and eventually writing again songs, one of which he brings to his ex-spouse that rejects it as lousy and so does Harry, her manager – only to regret it later.

Sue Anne comes to her estranged father’s new home one day and the reunion is touching, albeit without any spoiler alerts let us just say the new found warmth does not last for long.
Meanwhile, a band of amateur country musicians – in the sense that they have regular jobs to be able to put food on the table – comes to pay their respects to the legendary Sledge and they love his new composition, play it and this attracts the interest of a record company.

The former great singer is not sure he wants to try a comeback – perhaps because his former fame was associated with a dissolution, the violence of his fights with his former partner – we learn that he had had another, first wife when he was just seventeen – and he does not want to repeat that – for he has found bliss and happiness, he is baptized in the local church.
The title of this fabulous motion picture probably refers to the Tender Mercies as provided by the Lord – obviously, for those who believe in him, which is not the case for this viewer, but Rosa Lee uses the term in connection with the church, where she sings in the choir.

The Rounders by David Levien - Nine out of 10

The Rounders by David Levien
Nine out of 10

For some strange reason critics have not appreciated this formidable – if you ask this cinephile – motion picture, for they gave it a Metascore – an average – rating of only 54 out of 100.

The public has been more generous, with a more decent 7.3 out of a maximum of 10.

Perhaps some of the suggestions in the film have made the critics uneasy to approve it, for indeed, one main message seems to be that you can play poker and win the big pot, for this is not just a game that relies on luck and it takes much more skill and psychological insight.
Thus, seeming to encourage people to get into card games – where ultimately the cards you get to play depend on nothing else but luck – this motion picture may be dismissed as one that could be responsible for addictions and in many places, there are numerous individuals and families that have lost everything to gambling.

Having said that, there is also an excellent point which is made by the main character of the feature, Mike McDermott aka the super star Matt Damon twenty two years ago, in 1997, who is certain that it is not a question of good fortune, but on the contrary, it depends on stamina, courage, self-control, social intelligence and he has some proofs for that.
At the start of the film, we see the hero sharing a flat with his girlfriend, Jo aka Gretchen Mol, and taking thousands of dollars from their hiding places and using them to play at the private club owned by Teddy KGB aka an iconic John Malkovich in top form, resplendent with a very credible, amusing and yet so scary Russian accent and mob manner.

Teddy owes his nickname to his infamous connections with the Russian gangsters and he is perhaps the most dangerous man in the cards game arena, while Joey Knish aka the grand, masterful John Turturo is a benign figure, who tries to convince Mark to renounce his plan to gamble all at the table.
Nonetheless, this what he does and KGB takes all his savings, making it impossible for the law student to pay and continue his studies and furthermore, eventually helping to destroy his relationship with Jo.

As if this was not already a traumatic, almost calamitous situation, Worm aka the tremendous Edward Norton, is released from jail and the former friends get together and the ex-convict soon attracts the hero into a negative, terrible spiral, trying to pay the debt he had accumulated and avoid tragedy, death at the hands of the mobsters that control the loan sharks.
In the effort to save his friend – although the use of the term appears wrong as soon as it is placed on the screen, for the definition would not include treachery, abuse, hurting a mate, which was Worm would do – the protagonist is sucked into a circle of cheating, gaining and then losing all.

When they play in a club with apparent amateurs, Mike takes off on a winning streak, but the reckless, corrupt, vicious Worm still pushes for dirty tricks – reminding one of the anecdote with the scorpion that talks to the frog about crossing the pond and when they both reach the middle, the scorpion stings the other animal and they both sink to the bottom and the frog asks why would he do a thing that would cause them both to die only to get the reply that the scorpion could not help it for it is in his nature.
This vile nature of Worm brings about the catastrophe, for the men losing are police officers in their spare time, they see something is wrong and when they have the proof, they take all the money and beat the two scoundrels – Mike is not one, but then the company he keeps is his downfall.

Worm would run away and now the hero is left to hear the music, facing death or maiming at the hands of KGB and his gorillas, for the Russian owns the debt and they take no prisoners, if the money is not paid in full.
There is a small chance, for Mike has an excellent relationship with his professor, Abe Petrovsky played by yet another legend – the fact that there are so many formidable actors should place this wondrous film on the must-see list – Martin Landau.

The professor is willing to loan what he can – there is a phenomenal scene in which this and other professor play poker and the master student is able to tell with extraordinary talent what everyone has, just by looking at the faces and helps Petrovsky win.
With the money from this generous, kind man, Mike walks into the KGB domain and he plays to win and pay back the loan, save his life, or at least physical integrity, his limbs, although it seems such a terrible risk.

We learn at one point that the talented psychologist has taken the chance to play against the World Champion, when he had met him by chance and albeit it seemed like such a long shot, the amateur has won the game and he is determined to participate in Las Vegas and try to become the next king of the poker game.
In the meantime, he has to face the scary KGB and his acolytes that at one stage seem to be ready to “work” on the young man, although in fairness, the vicious gang leader prevents them with – shall we call it humor?

miercuri, 27 februarie 2019

Elizabeth by Michael Hirst -10 out of 10

Elizabeth by Michael Hirst
10 out of 10

It is interesting, if somewhat confusing to see this phenomenal motion picture – one of the best 100 for this cinephile – again after the recent release of Mary Queen of Scots and try to make sense of the contrasting views of the two perspectives and perhaps also think of another sensational success of 2018, The Favorite, where the queen is something else and the monarch could not be further apart from Elizabeth I.

This was a glorious queen, ruling over one of the best periods in British history, with accomplishments that should have made those who doubt the qualities of women stop then and there and give them equal rights and make their access to power and easy journey, albeit there would surely be many more films and books to come that will emphasize the dark side of the colonial power and depict the Virgin Sovereign as a symbol of despotism.
In this film however, the public is astounded by this Wonder Woman, her courage, extraordinary self-control, wisdom, spirit of self-sacrifice when she gives up her own wellbeing, suppresses her passion for Lord Robert Dudley aka Joseph Fiennes – this is where it seems historians will never know the details, although they will keep speculating – and give her life to her spouse – England.

Elizabeth I is portrayed by the outstanding Cate Blanchett – winner of two Oscars and nominated for one for this role, which has brought her a Golden Globe and other distinctions – and the rest of the cast is perfect, it could not have been any better considering names like Geoffrey Rush as Walsingham, Richard Attenborough as Sir William Cecil, Vincent Cassel in the role of the Duc d’Anjou, John Gielgud as the Pope, Fanny Ardant as Mary of Guise, Daniel Craig a treacherous priest – depending on the side you take – and so many other fabulous artists.
For some time, indeed, we could argue that for most of her rule, the Virgin Queen has been under tremendous pressure and it looks as if she might be the one who dies and not Mary Queen of Scots, given that she is in at the start of her reign more than vulnerable and many attempts on her life are made – in one, Isabel Knollys aka the wonderful Kelly Macdonald, one of the ladies in waiting, dies while wearing a dress destined for the queen that had been poisoned with the intent to dispatch the formidable monarch.

While Sir William Cecil is the adviser, the young queen seems to have few opportunities for ascent, transformation, the glory that she will achieve when Sir Francis Walsingham becomes perhaps the most important element in this game of power – there are documentaries we can see that depict him as one of the first, together with Richelieu, to have thought of and created a proto spy agency that gave him vital information about the enemies of the state and thus enabled him to win over and eventually kill them.

The duke of Norfolk wanted to eliminate Walsingham and that could have made for a different history, but once the cunning man kills his would be assassin, he is able to maneuver in such a way as to ensure the success of his sovereign, once in a crucial vote during which he maintains opponents in a temporary confinement, then through his network of informers he is able to counteract and catch, destroy the enemies of the queen.
For a long time, the idea that Elizabeth needs to marry is maintained, the Duc d’Anjou comes over with Monsieur de Foix – for the part we have an impressive former footballer turned actor, Eric Cantona – and he is dashing, rude and impetuous in his courtship of the monarch, although we can soon see that all he wants from her is a position as a possible despot, for he seems to have a different sexual orientation, or anyway he prefers other partners to the sovereign.

Spain used to be the world leader while Elizabeth is gaining strength and senior Alvaro de la Quadra is the envoy that tries to scheme and plot the overthrow of the legitimate – again, depending on one’s perspective – leader, trying to work to work with the duke of Norfolk, press him to act when time appears to be running out, then approaching Lord Robert Dudley when this one looks like losing the favor of the sovereign and proposing that he acts in the interests of Spain.
The Earl of Leicester appears to overplay his hand and try to push and benefit from the feeling of Elizabeth, forgetting that this is a strong, marvelous, determined, wondrous, bold, passionate, self-controlled woman that rejects him when, during a dance at the court, following the exposure of the French suitor as a transvestite, in an age when tolerance was not the order of the day, Robert Dudley pushes and demands from his monarch the impossible.

Meanwhile, the Pope aka the iconic, cinematic legend John Gielgud talks to a catholic priest, John Ballard aka James Bond Daniel Craig, about the destruction of the sovereign that they see as anathema, a representative of the devil, given that she is the enemy of the Catholic church and the head of the Anglican Church and Ballard appears to be the one who poisons the dress and he is about to kill her majesty when her courtiers arrive to save her at the last moment.
Walsingham is infiltrating the enemy camp, but when Ballard lands on the English shore, on his way back from the Vatican, he kills with bestiality one of the most important spies, an invaluable source of information placed in the entourage of the Duke of Norfolk, albeit very soon, the duke and the rebel priest are caught, tortured, beheaded and their heads are put on spikes for all to see.

Elizabeth is a classic film, with all that a masterpiece needs to have, illustrious performances, a fantastic subject, a heroine that is a role model, bigger than life and most importantly real – even if there would be many that detract, criticize and demolish her accomplishments as the sovereign of an aggressive, imperial state – with sumptuous costumes, incredible makeup – winner of the Academy Award – and a story that brings the audience to another level, makes one feel mesmerized, enchanted and in awe with a Wonder Woman and spectacular characters.
This is one of the best motion pictures ever.

J. Edgar by Dustin Lance Black - Nine out of 10

J. Edgar by Dustin Lance Black
Nine out of 10

As a republican, Clint Eastwood is an outlier in Hollywood and in the present, he seems to belong to a party that has lost its marbles – for someone who has had the misfortune to live in a communist dictatorship – and with Ceausescu at the helm it was one of the worst – being on the right of the political spectrum makes sense, but not for the organization led by a fool, crook and liar like Trump.

In his marvelous book Intellectuals, Paul Johnson exposes the excesses, despotism, cruelty of some of the world’s greatest minds, from Jean Jacques Rousseau to Leo Tolstoy, from Henrik Ibsen to Hemingway and many others.
Therefore, we should not concern ourselves with the grave mistakes made by Eastwood the political man and concentrate on the magic that the filmmaker delivers.

If we can.
Trump supporters would be thrilled to watch the films of a director, actor and producer that speaks at the Republican conventions to promote the image of their presidential front men, but for someone like this viewer, unconsciously there would be a tendency to look with a very critical eye to the works of the one who delivered some of the most famous lines in cinematic history…

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

J. Edgar is also about the importance of the law, different from Dirty Harry, but with a number of similarities, given that the Inspector Callahan was a determined, action figure dedicated to fighting crime by all means – sometimes shooting dead criminals, even if that meant breaking the law – and J. Edgar Hoover was another, arguably more important character in the fight against crime, with an ambiguous ethical stand.
An actor who needs no introduction plays the leading role, of a man that seems to have been a repressed homosexual, complicated figure that played a paramount part in creating, building up the Federal Bureau of Investigation that is so much attacked in an era of a leader that speaks about witch hunts, detests the agents working there and for people like this viewer he is clearly a Russian asset – it may be without his knowledge, for stupid, corrupt and vicious as he is, he could well look for profits above all else, without caring or understanding that he promotes the interests of Putin and undermines his country by saying he believes a tyrant over his own intelligence agencies.

Hoover meets early on with Helen Gandy aka Naomi Watts, a young woman that he proposes to, but she refuses stating that she is concerned with her career at that stage and anyway, they had only just met – they would remain very close, for she would become his private assistant and as such it seems that she had the key to special files that the head of the FBI kept on various – perhaps all – important public figures, wives of presidents and presidents themselves.
In one scene, Hoover meets with Robert Kennedy, the then head of the department of justice, the Attorney General who supervises the FBI, and he talks about his obsession with the communist threat – with hindsight, considering the Russian interference in the American elections, the victory that they may have delivered for the idiot candidate, with hacking of the democratic emails and more, the collusion of most of the Trump team, the late head of the agency seems to have been correct and the old cold war enemies are even in the present actively undermining the United States.

When J. Edgar meets Clyde Tolson aka the impressive, great Armie Hammer, he appears to be enamored – at least in this perspective of events proposed by this film – he wants to have him work for the Bureau, albeit there are elements in his file that would have prevented his employment were it not for a personal, emotional interest in the man who saw the FBI as a temporary step to be followed by a career in the private sector, where he would open an office.
The relationship between the two is described as a passionate love affair – that could have been platonic, we do not know for sure – with long periods of serenity and possible bliss, interrupted by scenes, such as the moments after a congressional hearing in which the head of the Bureau is exposed as a man who takes all the credit for the caught gangsters, but he has never arrested any of them in person, which was a rather lame accusation given the fact that we cannot expect the CEO or leader of a big organization, the head of an army to be asked to get in the line of fire and thus do great harm to his outfit.

The two friends, perhaps lovers, have other scenes of fighting, Clyde talks about the lies that J. Edgar had told, the exaggerations to which he was given, the spiteful manner of his attacks and demands for the firing of special agents involved in high profile arrests, such as the one of Dillinger, envious and spiteful, describing to the public the way Charles Lindbergh came to greet and shake hands with him when the abduction of his child was investigated – whereas the truth was that the Nazi sympathizer, yet marvelous aviator refused to see the one he called a little man.
J. Edgar Hoover was a complicated man and this makes for a more intriguing saga, where the merits of the one that has built the bureau from scratch, creating a scientific laboratory in what used to be the smoking parlor, facing a shortage of funds, powerful gangsters and enemies are balanced by his intrigues, illegal taping of criminals and innocent people with power that he could blackmail if it served his mean, personal purposes.

Fighting communists is a noble purpose, but exaggerating and labeling ordinary people for no reason is already a jump in the other camp, that of the scoundrels and mobsters that the FBI has been investigating and apprehending for so long – as to its future, we have to see what the Orange Clown and his acolytes will do, given that the Bureau has indicted so many of the allies of the Russian Asset and they are mad about this, calling it a fake inquiry when in fact the documents, proofs, witnesses, even the public statements made by the president show a horrid stand for the enemy and not his own camp…the wish to abandon NATO, the allies, the support given to the likes of Putin, Duterte, Kim and other despicable despots.
In a way, we could wish for J. Edgar to be in charge of the Bureau he has created today, to be able to take out the files he would have collected on this monster and show how he works for Russia – “Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” – in more than those public statements that should have been enough for any sensible person to see the fool for what he is.

marți, 26 februarie 2019

Breaker Morant, based on the play by Kenneth Ross - 10 out of 10

Breaker Morant, based on the play by Kenneth Ross
10 out of 10

Breaker Morant is one of the best motions pictures ever written, even if there is a very small chance that you have heard about it – well, there is an infinitesimal chance that you read this anyway.

It has won the Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for the most important cinematic prize, the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival of 1980, with two other prestigious nominations on the list:
Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.

One astounding aspect of this drama is the complexity of the characters, for it is hard – maybe impossible – to find personages that cover almost all the range from hero to the other extreme, of monstrous killers.
Furthermore, there is not just one man who has all this under the same skin, but two, out of the three charged with murder and court martialed during the Boer War by the British Army.

Edward Woodward is phenomenal in the title role of Lieutenant Harry Harbord ‘Breaker’ Morant and the same is true about the other members of the cast:
Jack Thomson, winner of the Cannes Festival Award, as Major J.F. Thomas, Bryan Brown as Lieutenant Peter Handcock and all the other wondrous actors.

Three Australians are charged with murder and the accusation is gruesome considering that the crimes they are supposed to have committed refer to executing helpless prisoners.
This is as despicable as a crime could be and the extraordinary thing is that the men appear from the start of the trial to admit to this and thus make the rest of the feature seem pointless on the surface.

This would be just looking at the surface, albeit it has been stated from the start that this constitutes one of the main attractions of the motion picture, the fact that the protagonists are at the same time monstrous – except perhaps for the youngest of them – and at the same time victims, scape goats and pieces of a puzzle which the British commanders manipulate and sacrifice of their chess board to end a war that is unwinnable.

As we learn about the circumstances of the fighting, we see that the heroes that are also antiheroes have received orders from their superiors to the effect that they are to take no prisoners and all the captives are to be shot and killed, albeit the audience must be thinking that heinous orders must be disobeyed, constituting what we would call today crimes against humanity.
The situation is more complicated, for as Breaker Morant explains at times, they are fighting a guerilla war, wherein their opponents use men, women and children, without respecting any rules and making us think of the IS and other terrorist organizations that are ruthless, albeit consulting historical books we would surely find many differences – this is where on Bill Maher joke comes to mind…

“Islam is a religion of peace…there is a piece of you here…a piece of you there…”

The trial seems to be – and perhaps would end up as it looked from the start – a kangaroo trial, for the army leaders state in private that they want to finish the war and the execution of the three would send a message that they punish their own and the two parties can negotiate in a better climate, as a result of this human sacrifice.
However, the defendants that are in the beginning destined to be murdered have an unexpected luck when the man selected to defend them proves to be a formidable fighter, in spite of his total lack of experience, for he had never been to court for a case and worked on land titles.

Major Thomas puts such a formidable defense that he has a tremendous impact – albeit he may not be able to change the fate of the trial – that he calls the general commanding the troops, to the outrage of the officer in charge of the proceedings, who has to give in though, when the rights of the defendants are read from the manual that dictates the proceedings.
Nevertheless, the general does not show up in court and sends a subordinate with the mission to deny that they gave orders for the Boers to be shot when taken prisoners, even the opposite is true.
The film is marvelous in that it has fighting – even as they are in jail, the rebellious Boers attack and the prisoners defend with courage and brilliance and their counselor indicates that according to tradition this must be pardoned for their acts of valor, only to be refused by the puppet court – a splendid court drama, combined with a spectacular psychological and historical side.

Peter Handcock has killed, among others, a German priest who has travelled though their camp and talked to Boer prisoners who in their turn are executed, albeit Germany was not a part in that conflict – yes, they were supportive of the rebels and with hindsight, we know that they would engage the British in two World Wars, but the situation is as complex, intriguing, thought provoking as it is possible.
At one point, it is suggested – and this can be a description of the drama in just a few words – that the firing squad should be brought in for trial and when the defense demands that, the court retorts that they were only following orders…

Yes, but this is what the accused have done…executing the orders given by the High Command…

Breaker Morant is for many good reasons – and it is on my Best 100 list – on the New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made List:

12 Years a Slave, based on the book by Solomon Northup - 10 out of 10

12 Years a Slave, based on the book by Solomon Northup
10 out of 10

Knowing about the horror, the torture included in this motion picture, this viewer has been reluctant to engage with it and look at the terrible scenes of whipping, the awful beatings and the sufferings depicted in the Winner of the Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Actress and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.

The ordeal of Solomon Northup, portrayed by the extraordinary, Academy Award Nominated for the leading role Chiwetel Ejiofor, is so compelling as to be hard to watch, as he is taken into 12 Years of Slavery – as the title makes clear – a tragedy made worse by his initial status of free man.
He lives with his wife and children in New York, where he is an appreciated musician, very good at playing his violin, when two men make an offer for a tour, in which he will make very good money and he would be able to provide for his family upon his return from his travels.

Alas, the hero is trapped, probably drugged when they celebrate the supposedly successful enterprise and when he wakes up, he finds that he is handcuffed, his legs are in chains and he cannot move and when a man walks into the room where he is a prisoner, his demands to be freed are met with extreme violence and beatings, which would unfortunately be repeated later.
With other African Americans – called using the “n” word throughout the film and indeed with other, much worse insults – he is taken on a boat to the south – on board, one of them is killed by a white man and thrown over board – and they are left ashore where Freeman aka Paul Giamatti takes them into custody.

The cruel, despicable Freeman – not that he is an exception, this more of a rule for white men, owners of slaves – sells men, women and children and he makes a boy who seems to be only about seven jump, lift his feet to demonstrate his prowess and the qualities for which a future master should pay a big sum.
Ford is a slave owner played by Benedict Cumberbatch and he is interested in the mother of two children, but his attempted negotiation with Freeman fails on the issue of the keeping mother and children together and the vicious seller insists he will make an important profit and this is all he is interested in.
Ford is a little more complicated, for he is not the Absolute Devil – this position seems to be reserved for Edwin Epps aka Michael Fassbender – and at times he shows some kindness and understanding, albeit he is still a slave owner and as such, he is indifferent to the suffering of the African Americans.

Patsey aka Lupita Nyong’o – winner of the Academy award for Best Performance of an Actress in a Supporting role – says as much when she talks to the hero and emphasizes that as a white man, their master would never do anything if Solomon mentions his real status as a free man.
The protagonist is abused and attacked by the bestial Tibeats and when a fight ensues, the white overseer brings two others to help him and they are ready to hang the helpless slave that is saved at the last moment, but it is still somewhat inexplicably left hanging by a thread, for what seems like an eternity.

Ford transfers him to Edwin Epps and if we felt that there is nothing worse that can happen, we were mistaken, because this is the Ultimate Monster, a man so ferocious and stupid as to punish his “property” when for one day the quantity of cotton thy have picked is diminished – even if they have performed excellently – this brute was obviously unaware of the Regression to the Mean.
This is explained by the most influential psychologist of the present, the Nobel Prize winner and astounding scientist Daniel Kahneman in his fabulous Thinking Fast and Slow, in the chapter where he talks about the performance of Israeli pilots in the Israeli Defense Force, who had a tendency to do something out of the ordinary and the return to a more normal performance, in the same manner that others made mistakes and then performed much better -  a tendency we have to come to an average, after performing out of the general trend.

Patsey is so overwhelmed by the torture suffered at the hands of the slave owner that she demands that Solomon takes her to the river, puts her head under water until she is dead, for she cannot take it any longer – the master uses her in the field to pick cotton, but he also rapes, beats the poor woman that is also attacked and insulted by the wife of Epps, who is called to decide.
Between spouse and the slave he owns, he says that he would rather keep Patsey, but this is because he surely has this derangement, sadistic character and he wants a victim for his mad atrocities – the most gruesome scene of the motion picture – which otherwise is not lacking in horrid moments – has the young woman whipped by…Solomon, who is told that if he does not use his whole strength, the crazy brute would kill all black people he sees and he looks like meaning it.
Fortunately, after all this madness, Bass aka Brad Pitt enters the scene and he is an abolitionist that argues with the vile, monstrous Edwin Epps over the unjust treatment of the slaves, human beings like all the others that the slave owner sees only as property and as such something he can abuse.

They are my property and a man is free to do what he wants with his property – says the repulsive, loathsome man.

Solomon is very careful when talking with Bass, for although he sees a rare chance, he had tried before to have a white man send a letter for him, only to have that scoundrel report it to Edwin Epps.
This motion picture is outstanding and historical in its importance as a document, an educational work that would remain as one of the most important, classic motion pictures.

luni, 25 februarie 2019

Instant Family, written and directed by Sean Anders - Seven out of 10

Instant Family, written and directed by Sean Anders
Seven out of 10

Mixed with very good moments, we have the inevitable lachrymose, perhaps unavoidable scenes in a film that aspires to commercial success that subtract from the pleasure of seeing Instant Family.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” Hamlet

If we are to look at the educational, generous, kind, loving, humane side of the motion picture, we should be able to forgive – Insha’Allah – some of the clichés, less relevant episodes.
Mark Wahlberg is Pete, Rose Byrne is Ellie, his wife, and they decide to try to become foster parents and enroll in a program that would eventually give them the chance to be with three children.

One of them is already a teenager, Lizzy, and thus would represent a challenge, taking selfies in the bathroom to the despair of her parents, who see a “dick pic” from an adult man.
In the first place, they do not know the real identity of the sender, thinking it is a rather innocent colleague that the aggravated parents attack on the school campus with abusive language.

They would leave the other two, smaller children, Lita who seems to be about four and Juan who could be seven, in the car – somewhat surprisingly, but probably explainable as an ad placement, this is a Hyundai.
The poor red haired pupil explains that he does not shave his intimate parts, they are not big as the parents claim and anyway, he is not the one who has sent the offensive picture.

When they see who it is, the situation is even worse for the janitor is a twenty five year old individual and this is a crime and Pete punches him in the face and Ellie would kick him in the groin.

Not extraordinarily.

In the economy of the film though, this is a moment which shows how attached the foster parents have become to the teenager, going to extremes to defend her privacy and emotions.
They aggravate the situation in the process, for they have forgotten the younger ones in the Hyundai, the police that also take into custody the criminal janitor arrest them.

It is conceivable that the humor of the creators of the film would have been ever more rewarding, if commercial, rating and other considerations were not to play a major role.
For there is play with boundaries and suggestions, as in the case of the would be foster mother who wants a teenager, African American and an athlete that plays basketball.

This woman is single and her requirements are so outré, perhaps outrageous as to make the others laugh at her when she keeps stating that she has had no success in her attempts.
Moreover, she is right and funny when she retorts to all this laughter:

You are the exact opposite of a support group!

Furthermore, the two women that guide the families through this process – Sharon aka Tig Notaro and Karen aka the excellent, amusing Octavia Spencer – are also mirthful.
“So unprofessional” says Sharon

Eventually, the single woman who wanted an African American teenage athlete has the chance to offer support to someone who seems the opposite, red haired and not into sports.
There is one ceremony where they cheer foster parenting and adoptions – the film advertises the site where people can get involved and there are real pictures of people who are active with that:

At this event, there is a hint that the single mother may want something else, or more from the red haired boy that looks puzzled at his foster parent and this is not hilarious, but suggests we could have had a better time.
As it is, Instant Family serves more than the purpose of delivering a few laughs and brings to the attention of the public that there is something we can all do for those who have been abandoned.

Afterwards, based on the novel by Guillaume Musso - Seven out of 10

Afterwards, based on the novel by Guillaume Musso
Seven out of 10

If you love Romain Duris and John Malkovich, as the under signed does, then you will probably be tolerant of the shortcomings of this motion picture that was rejected by critics.

The audiences have not been more generous, since the rating on IMDB stands at 5.9 on a scale from one to ten, and this is somewhat surprising given that four in ten Americans believe in psychics.
In other lands, that percentage is surely higher.

The iconic, legendary John Malkovich plays Doctor Kay – though not so god like when he takes on roles in films like RED and then decides to participate in the sequel as well.
He is not a psychic per se, for he does not talk to the dead and does not propose the usual phantasmagoria, has limits in what concerns the future and insists that we do not know how we die.

However, he does know who is going to die!

Obviously, this is a premise that would antagonize many, if not most viewers, including this one, who, upon seeing that the main theme has a rather preposterous idea at the core did not engage with the film.
On the other hand, who knows…maybe we will have the chance to see a white halo and then become aware that this is associated with someone who will die soon and needs assistance.

There is nothing that Doctor Kay can do for the dying, except be there and help them somehow in the final moments of their death, which is pre-established as he insists in the film:

There is nothing one can do about the hour of death!

Romain Duris, one of the best actors in the world, plays Nathan, a successful lawyer that meets with Doctor Kay and dismisses the preposterous claims that the other makes.
He is shaken though when he sees in the subway a man that the doctor has pointed out to him and predicted that he will die very soon use a gun to blow his brains out in front of him.

When the lawyer sees that there might be some truth in what the apparently strange Kay says, he is worried about Anna, a woman that he thinks might be in danger and thus he tries to protect.
In one instance, when he inadvertently arrives at a party, he tries to prevent her from working with the fuses for the lights that have just went off, only to have her father die in her place.

The wrong conclusion drawn here is that the doctor is so wrong and Anna is surely in no danger, but something happens quite soon, as a mad shooter starts firing his gun and then kills her.
Trembling, Nathan can now see that Doctor Kay is a Chosen man somehow and the two travel to see Claire and their daughter, with another episode of clairvoyance at the airport.

The doctor – and with him the audience – can see that one man has a halo, a bright white light that emanates from him and in some later scene we can see him dead on the side of the road.
At some stage, Nathan himself gains this power, like in other films, where one does not become an X – Man right from the start – or does he…for one who is not looking for this genre, it is hard to tell.

One important, attractive, captivating side of this bizarre film is the serenity that dominates the scenes in the later chapters.
That was blissful and gave an impulse for carpe diem.

Otherwise, it is not the best opportunity that either John Malkovich or Romain Duris have had to shine.

duminică, 24 februarie 2019

Tehran Taboo, written and directed by Ali Soozandeh - Nine out of 10

Tehran Taboo, written and directed by Ali Soozandeh
Nine out of 10

The Iranian cineastes are among the best in the world – we could mention here Asghar Farhadi and his brilliant About Elly, A Separation, The Past and the most recent Salesman, or the glorious Children of Heaven by Majid Majidi
Samira Makhmalbaf is another Iranian cinematic genius, with her Blackboards or At Five in the Afternoon.

We could mention Through the Olive Trees, by another master from the same oppressed country, Abbas Kiarostami -
Another fabulous animated work, perhaps at about the same level as Tehran Taboo, would be Persepolis -

Tehran Taboo gives the audience a glimpse at a theological tyranny, the Iranian Theocracy is a repellent regime, albeit Trump is wrong, as always, in not respecting the accord signed over the nuclear technology.
From the first few scenes, the ordeal, tragedy of life in an oppressive regime is clear, when a prostitute has to drive with a judge and offer him sex, while her boy sits in the back seat.

The boy may be only about eight and at school, they refuse his admission without the preposterous papers demanded by the vicious, corrupt, Kafkaesque bureaucracy of a vile system.
Like in other theocracies – Saudi Arabia for instance – women are abused and they have to show everywhere that a male guardian – who can be much younger than them, has authorized almost anything they do.

The Revolutionary Guards – that is one example of a name that is supposed to mean something positive, when in fact it represents the exact opposite, a reactionary, fundamentalist, primitive force – have power over everyone.
They stop couples that walk in the park, one of the protagonists as he travels with his car and when they find a magazine with nudes, they take it away, jail him temporarily and release him after a bribe is paid.

The judge in the feature is as loathsome as almost all the officials that keep the mullahs in power – there may be a few exceptions of people that try to help and save men and women.
Indeed, executions are public and as characters drive around, we can see corpses hanging from cranes, many paying with their life for the opposition to a system that is as despicable as one can be.

The prostitute is trying to get the papers demanded by the school to admit her son and maybe the main reason why she has sex with the judge – apart from getting money to survive – is to use his influence.
Women must have coitus only within the established frame of matrimony – they are chased and tortured by the Revolutionary Guards – their rights are limited and they are in a class inferior to men.

When one personage loses her virginity, it is paramount for her to restore it – indeed, at a later stage, her partner would confront and send her packing upon suspicion that something could have happened.
A gynecologist needs papers to perform an operation and that would mean a statement from the family that confirms their agreement and this refers to accidents and a rape – otherwise the religious Taliban would not have it.

All this costs money, for false documents could be procured – even for the bank loans actually – and many people are desperate to get passports to get away from this hell, which is described as heaven.
There is much we recognize in this narrative, those of us who have lived in dictatorships – be they communist as in the case of this viewer – for they all tell their subjects that they experience paradise, when they know it is Hades in reality.

The system is so absurd as to make it hard to believe that such retrograde, barbaric rules and laws still exist in the 21st century, but for those who have experienced these surrealist tyrannies it is all so real.
There is no difference though between the dictatorship in Iran and that in North Korea, although an idiot like Trump decides to talk about a love affair with Kim, while accusing the ayatollah.

A sane mind would condemn both, for the starvation in North Korea is worse than what happens in Venezuela – if we come to comparing devastation, murder and the oppression of one or another people.
Tehran Taboo, as the other marvel, Persepolis, before it, is not just a great motion picture, it serves an educational purpose as well, for those who have no idea how lucky they are to live free, can see what it means to have to look over the shoulder for the murderous Guards of the Iranian or another regime.

sâmbătă, 23 februarie 2019

Mary Queen of Scots based on the book by John Guy - Eight out of 10

Mary Queen of Scots based on the book by John Guy
Eight out of 10

After seeing The Favourite, nominated for an astounding ten Academy Awards – albeit it seems not a Favorite in the most important categories at the bookies that are good at predicting what happens tomorrow night – we speak on Saturday 23rd – it is difficult to know how accurate Mary of the Scots is in historical terms.

Evidently, a motion picture is not a documentary and therefore artistic license is supposed to change things, create dialogues and scenes that may have never taken place expect in the imagination of the scriptwriters, but for this cinephile it is most often important, at least for a historical drama to have a sense that it is not all a phantasmagoria, unless we are speaking of History of the World, where Mel Brooks can have stereo speakers blasting near the Roman Senate, sometime before our era.
The gruesome, horrifying end of Mary Queen of Scots is enough to feel pity – if that is the right word, for Milan Kundera mentions in The Unbearable Lightness of being the fact that pity refers to somebody who is somewhat lower than we are, while compassion implies a rather equal status – for her.

Nonetheless, if there is one thing that we get from this new look at the famous martyr, it would be that she was extraordinarily proud, brave, majestic, a mantra that is printed on the poster of the film:

“Bow To No One”

One of the other main themes of the narrative seems a bit harder to process, for at least for this viewer it seems to suggest – if not affirm with conviction, for the book on which the script is based is titled Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart – which obviously means that the author and makers of the production strongly believe in this rendering of the historical chapter.
That important idea, which is also on the poster, with the two Academy Award Nominees – for other, different motion pictures – Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie photographed together- presents a very strong bond between the two Queens, the English and the Scottish.
Throughout this version of events, the two great leaders clash, but there is another, maybe more important truth behind the scenes, which would be that Elizabeth I aka the marvelous Margot Robbie was very often in awe with her relative and the courtiers, advisers were the ones who pushed for a conflict and finally a rupture, a separation between the two heroines.

Mary Stuart appears as the stronger leader for much of the film – there is no spoiler alert when the ending is well known to everyone with the downfall and the ultimate success of the Queen of England is mentioned – although her circumstances are less favorable to say the least.
Sent to France at the age of fifteen, he marries and becomes a widow only three years later, when upon returning to Scotland she finds her half-brother James Stewart, Earl of Moray as leader – a man with whom she has a tumultuous, conflicting relationship that would usurp – if that is correct- it certainly is from the point of view of some Scottish nationalists, if not all – her power.

For a while, the two are getting along, but then events would change that – some occurrences are baffling and probably based on documents, letters but it is surely impossible to say for sure – we can wonder what the estimations would be…40% chances that this really happened? – that there were gay courtiers, one of them had an affair with Henry Stuart Lord Darnley and then was killed with multiple knife stabbings under the eyes of his queen.
The advisers of Elizabeth I, William Cecil aka Guy Pearce and Lord Randolph aka Adrian Lester, are always concerned about Mary of the Scots and when she wants to marry a second time – allowed in theory because she was told she could marry, but to an English noble – Lord Darnley they oppose this strategic move, because they think the two of them would have more of a claim to the English throne and therefore scheme to have the Scottish queen defeated.

They want to fight a civil war, saying that if it is not happening in Scotland it would be in England, they support a faction led by the Earl of Moray that would confront the supporters of Mary and alas, there are others scheming to get the power, one of them being the father of Henry Stuart, who makes his own son sign a document which may be the prove that he was a traitor – in this telling of history, Mary is determined to have a heir to the throne – given that Elizabeth has not married and it is obvious, due to her age, that she would never have a child.
Indeed, her son, James, would become the king of both England and Scotland and the first to have the two realms under his rule, but his conception seems to have been a hard fought battle – if we believe the perspective of this film – wherein Mary is practically fighting her – bisexual or gay - husband to have a coitus that he does not want and when he rejects her, looks away, she tells him to close his eyes and think of his gay lover, then beats his chest and in the consequent struggle – perhaps Lord Darnley was also a sadist – he slaps her hard and then gets more interested to see this as a struggle and does his duty so to say.

Mary Queen of Scots is a formidable film, more than worth watching, in the opinion of this cinephile it is better than Oscar contenders – the Academy awards for Best Leading Actress seems to be going to Glenn Close but Saoirse Ronan is just as good, if not better and the whole film is superior to both Black Panther and A star is Born – if you ask this viewer.
As for the historical facts, you could read this article:

vineri, 22 februarie 2019

Tales from the Golden Age aka Amintiri din Epoca de Aur, written by Cristian Mungiu, one episode directed by him - Nine out of 10

Tales from the Golden Age aka Amintiri din Epoca de Aur, written by Cristian Mungiu, one episode directed by him
Nine out of 10

Although not as well received as 4 Luni, 3 Saptamani si 2 zile – winner of the most important cinematic award, the Palme d’Or and included by TIME Magazine or some other prestigious newspaper on its list of best 100 films – Dupa Dealuri or Bacalaureat, Tales from the Golden Age demonstrates the creative genius of one of the best film makers in the world, Cristian Mungiu.

And to think that I used to have the honor of seeing at the Lycee Francais, where he has one or more children and my daughter used to be a student…
The drama of the Golden Age – communists love these tremendous lies, in the same manner as Trump boasts about being the most intelligent, a stable genius, working hardest and being the best president ever, the disastrous, murderous regime proclaimed that we live in Epoca de Aur.

The reality was the opposite – just as Trump is a calamity and a shameful leader – and it is exposed by this joke, which is not in the collection of episodes, but it is appropriate and explains the situation, through questions and answers from Radio Yerevan – for some reason, it was not the National Radio
-          Is it true that Mr. Ionescu has been given a white Dacia? – the local, defective model which had its own set of ironies – why do we have heating on a rear window of a Dacia? To keep our hands warm when we push
-          No, it is not a car, it is a bicycle, it is not white, it is black and it was not given to him, it was taken away from him…

In other words, whatever the officials said, it had to be read in reverse, just like in The Animal Farm, all animals were not equal and the pigs, supported by their vicious dogs – aka the Secret Police – took control and used the rotten system – it is not just human error, the concept is a calamity itself – to live in luxury and opulence while others starved and died.
One of the segments has The Official Visit name and the party official sent to organize it is one of those who kept the machinery going and alas, is very likely to be one of the beneficiaries of the change of regime, most likely a member or supporter of the Red Plague Party that rules today and wants to change the laws so that stealing by the leaders of this vicious, corrupt mafia group could rob the country blind with impunity – recently they have taken the absurdity of their misrule and debauchery to the level where they call on trial leaders of the European Union institutions just because they dare criticize the PSD crimes and they think they can do anything they bloody well want.

The party activist is in control in the countryside, where the Supreme Dear – read it most loathed – Leader is supposed to visit the next day and the party cadres are there to see that he has the best welcome, with children cheering, best possible imagery that must cover the grim reality – in some instances, in order to have the Trump-like-fool think that the harvesting was over, they just sent machinery in the fields to bury the crops, since there was no time to collect it, before the madman would fly over in a helicopter, thinking the job is well done.
After the usual paraphernalia, the “wooden tongue” as it was called of formal speeches and “precious indications” that cows must not be brought to the itinerary, this and that needs to be changed, there is an evening of heavy drinking and the whole gig is taken to a park at the exit of the village, where all the notabilities and the apparatchik visitors jump on the merry go round and spin around for hours on end, on to the next day, because they were so stupid – to compare with the present, in the same manner that Trump has selected the “best people”: Cohen, Flynn, Manafort, Stone and all the other vicious, stupid Goodfellas that have been or will be sent to jail.

The Legend of the Party Photographer refers to the manner in which the communist party manipulated, used the propaganda, brain washing machine in the way the Chinese, North Koreans and others do today, eliminating all possible negative connotations, hints and promoting a false – “fake news” in the parlance of the present – image of the Perfect Superman Wonder Leader, who cannot have any blemish, any spot to his figure, since he is Mult Iubitul, Stimatul aka the Very Loved, Esteemed Genius of the Carpathians.
During an official visit, as he was welcoming a foreign head of state, the villainous, murderous, tyrannical, diabolical Ceausescu was photographed by the Official press representative, only the censors were not happy with the result which did not show the needed resplendent, divine, god-like figure that the tyranny needed and hence they decided they need to work on the picture, without the digital advances of this age, the Photo Shop and other means we all have now.

Trying to make the Hero of World Peace, Ctitorul Romaniei Moderne, the Beloved, Brilliant Superman look the part of those many superheroes that have invaded cinematic screens in the past decades, they worked on the photograph, but looking too much at the face and not concerned with other details it seems, for when the picture was printed on the front page of the Scanteia aka the Spark – the equivalent of the Soviet Pravda and just as mean and false – the dictator had two hats in his hands and thus made plain the fakeness of this and by consequence other photos and “news” printed by the official paper.

A massive hunt for all the copies has been instated and police units everywhere waited for the trains to arrive at stations to confiscate all the papers before they could have arrived at “avid readers” – they obviously could not care less for what they knew to be total crap, except of course for the same scoundrels and monsters that are in charge today and continue their sacred mission of telling their deplorable voters – similar to the Trump fans – that stealing by them is just good and if the former cadres are enriching themselves while keeping the population in relative poverty that is just as things should be…
The segments are comical, especially for someone who watches without having experienced the reality behind the stories – for those of us who have had to live in The Golden Age, the Tales have a very depressing background, because albeit ridiculous and laughable, the figures of the Party Activist, the Greedy Policeman and all the other Inglorious Bastards have affected our lives – one such policeman has handcuffed me to a radiator and then we had to face their callousness in the days of the 1989 revolution – I am proud to say I am quoted in Newsweek over what happened in those days…

Tales from the Golden Age is an excellent film, as is to be expected from the glorious Cristian Mungiu.

Ladies in Lavender, based on story by William Locke, written and directed by Charles Dance - Eight out of 10

Ladies in Lavender, based on story by William Locke, written and directed by Charles Dance
Eight out of 10

With Dames Judy Dench and Maggie Smith leading the cast as the Ladies in Lavender, this film could not be an unfortunate experience.

It is not the best motion picture in which the iconic actresses have been, but it is a notable, emotional, romantic story.
Judi Dench plays the part of Ursula, while Maggie Smith has the role of Janet and they are sisters living in a village on the shore of Cornwall.

Looking at the beach one day, Ursula sees a shadow near the beach and her sister thinks it is a man.
Indeed, brought ashore by the storm of the previous night, a castaway is just barely surviving.

The sisters bring him to their cottage and helped by Doctor Francis Mead, they nurse and help him recover.
He does not speak English and that would be cause for concern and then suspicion in the village.

This is the period just before the war, the Nazis were becoming ever more belligerent, and some think the stranger might be a spy.
Doctor Francis Mead is prejudiced and determined to eliminate a rival when he talks to the constable about the dangers posed by the foreigner.

Meanwhile, the sisters teach the young man English, with labels attached to the door, curtains and other objects in his room to begin with.
They also are attached to him, especially Ursula, who is rather advanced in age, when compared with the recovering castaway.
After the dialogue is established, they find that his name is Andrea – the excellent Daniel Bruhl portrays him.

He is not German and in no way an agent of the Third Reich as presumed by paranoid locals.
In fact, he is Polish and very gifted and talented as they would discover when they bring in a neighbor with his violin.

After listening to a good, if not exceptional performance, Andrea asks for the musical instrument.
In addition, the outstanding genius with which he delivers a sophisticated small concert overwhelms us all.

A Russian woman is holidaying in the village and she happens to hear at a later stage how gifted the young man is.
She is Olga Daniloff and the wonderful Natascha McElhone plays the part with brilliance and élan.

Olga is extremely beautiful and the doctor is soon infatuated and tries to court and seduce her.
His efforts are in vain, albeit his insistence turns to spying, when he is rejected and he soon tries to harm Andrea.

Ursula is also jealous when a letter is sent, mentioning that Olga, who is a painter, has a famous brother.
He is a world famous violinist and given his position in the artistic world, he could help the career of Andrea.

Nevertheless, willing to keep Andrea for herself so to say, Ursula does not say a word about this wondrous opportunity.
Indeed, also fond of the young man, albeit not in the same rather exaggerated and inappropriate manner as her sister, Janet burns the letter from Olga.

When finally the violinist finds about it, he is very upset with the Ladies in Lavender and ready to take his chance.

However, it takes initiative and determination on the part of Olga to make him act before he is stopped.
The woman decides that they must act quickly and see her acclaimed brother as soon as possible.

Miriam Margoyles in the role of Dorcas and Toby Jones as Hedley are only two of the other brilliant actors present in this very good motion picture.

miercuri, 20 februarie 2019

Kursk, written by Robert Rodat and directed by Thomas Vinterberg - Seven out of 10

Kursk, written by Robert Rodat and directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Seven out of 10

There is much to celebrate in a drama that tells the story of the submarine disaster that took place in 2000 and in which the Russian leadership showed its ugly, mean, inhuman face.

Instead of reading this note, I would suggest that you access Variety and look at the excellent review posted there, albeit it would make you avoid the film, given that it is quite critical of it.
The saga of the submarine made the headlines around the world and the callousness, cruelty of those who lead Russia became once again evident for those who have eyes and a minimal understanding of events.

The eternal leftist, guerilla fighters, people like Corbyn, Maduro, Trump would agree with anything Putin says and does, including sentencing sailors to die because they are inept and refuse aid from the West.
The director is the incredible Thomas Vinterberg, famous for the astonishing Festen and the acclaimed Jagten, but the critic from Variety is right to point out the shortcomings of this mega production.

The cast could not include more iconic figures:
Max von Sydow – if only for his presence in the masterpieces signed by Ingmar Bergman and he has a place in the history of cinema, along with some other major gods – has the role of a vile character – Vladimir Petrenko.

As one of the leaders of the Russian Navy, he boasts and manifest a criminal arrogance after the calamity is produced, refusing to accept the international offers of help
It must be noted though that in spite of the fact that this is surely a villain and the orphans are right in refusing to shake his hand when the funeral and religious service is organized, he is one of the less relevant ones.

The Absolute Monster is missing from this picture, alas!

Vladimir Putin was the ultimate commander in chief and the one who would not agree to a loss of face, the saving of his subjects with foreign vessels, an intervention that would highlight the precarious, disastrous state of equipment, the economy, vessels, technology – everything in other words – and would mean a humiliating PR stunt.
Let the sailors die, rather than admit to the truth – in the meantime, fueled by revenues form gas, oil and other natural resources, the Russian army has seen its budget increase and important sums of money have been spent for better equipment, although that economy is still smaller than Italy’s and much of the noise made is just an effort to punch above its weight.

In short, an accident takes place on board the submarine Kursk and the officials use their usual propaganda and lies to pretend that it was in fact a collision with a foreign vessel and not the decrepitude of that – others were in the same condition – warship which caused the catastrophe.
They try to use the only resource they have for such an emergency, but it does not do the job and the British and others offer immediate support – Colin firth is majestic as Commodore David Russell.

Peter Simonischek is another fabulous, sensational, phenomenal actor who has mesmerized, ravished audiences with the recent, resplendent, one of the best films ever made – Toni Erdman.
He has the role of Admiral Vyacheslav Grudzinky, who is in command of the fleet and the submarine and when the disaster strikes, he is engaged in the effort to save his men.

When all that the Russian fleet has becomes useless – which it looks like it was to begin with – he talks with Commodore Russell – the two had met each other before the calamity.
Tragically, his acceptance of the British support is not tolerated by his superiors who demote him, stall the British when the loathsome Petrenko leads the talks and they are concerned with their image and the idea that adversaries would steal secrets from their ancient vessel.

The attitude of the Russians - Putin in fact, for he is the Supreme Leader, the Tyrant who gives the orders - is consistent, they have no qualms about using polonium on one of their own – the late Litvinenko – or novichok, as in the recent Salisbury attack, invade the Ukraine, meddle in elections in America – albeit their puppet there, The stupid Donald denies it, for he believes the dictator and not his own agencies – and elsewhere.

What are a few sailors in this equation, where the Great Vladimir and his acolytes are concerned with the Glory of Mother Russia?
Not much indeed!

There is no spoiler alert, for the end of this saga is known and it does detract from the pleasure of trying to find what happens, although the details of the loathsome, barbaric stand of those who should stand by their service men – there were no women and there are none on their submarines, we can be sure of that, even if it might be a state secret – and instead sentence them to die with monstrous viciousness.