‘Inside Out’ and Edelman: Is the emotion Joy white?

There are many reasons to deride feminist, body positive, wife and mom of five Joni Edelman and her article “Pixar Fails at Body Positivity in ‘Inside Out.'” Edelman, who is the Editor in Chief of ravishly.com, something that I am not an authority on and have no interest in reading now, was outraged or upset that the emotion of Sadness was portrayed by a short and chubby female character with bad hair, a turtleneck and glasses. Yes…she doesn’t like that the character is all those things.

Now I do not know how tall Edelman and she does look white or “white-ish.” Seriously…Edelman brought the subject of race into the matter.

What’s apparently in Riley’s mind is a tall, lithe, human-looking girl with a pixie cut named Joy, obviously. Her counterpoint is a short, chunky, sad-and-blue… person (I presume) with an emo haircut, named — you guessed it — Sad.

Sad (the feeling) is often associated with the color blue. Red is often associated with anger, etc. That I get. I don’t get how that happened, and I’m not going to go searching because it’s not that important to my point. Blue is also associated with boys. Which also makes no sense. At all.

Color aside… why is she short? Why does she have emo hair? Why is she wearing glasses? Why does she have to wear a turtleneck? Why is she fat, for frack’s sake?

In fact, why have any of these characteristics been assigned to her?

Well. Probably because someone at Pixar thinks fat people are sad. Because they are fat. And how could they be fat and smile? Fat people have some nerve. Also, their poor vision is apparently causing them some distress. Joy doesn’t wear glasses. She probably had Lasik. Because she is probably also rich. Rich, white (well, white-ish) people are also joyous. And she gets to wear a cute little dress, which she probably bought at Nordstrom, while Sad is shrouded in what is probably an itchy-ass thrifted wool sweater. Maybe that’s why she’s named Sad.

Now Joy gets a race. She is rich and white. Riley, the girl in whose mind these emotions exist, is not rich, but she is white. I look at the Huffington Post photo of Edelman and she looks “white-ish.

Joy is actually yellow. I know this because I received my “Joy” glasses and saw the El Capitan performance where Joy was dressed in yellow.

Now for full disclosure. I will admit that I love Nordstrom. I admit I wear glasses. I also admit that I wear wool. sweaters and even a turtlenecks. I love sweaters and turtlenecks. I might have bought a sweater or turtleneck at Nordstrom. I do not have emo hair, whatever that is. I thought Sadness has a classic pageboy without bangs. I am not fat, but I have been overweight (as well as underweight) and  I am short. I’m not an authority, but I’m probably shorter than Edelman. Few people are under five-foot.

And, if one were to classify my race, I am yellow. Sometimes being an ethnic East Asian does seem to be “white-ish.” I’m obviously not black. I could be Latino, but Latino isn’t a race. I can sort of be allowed into the whites only spaces as an honorary white. I get it. I’m seen as a model minority and too many people assume I’ll be quiet and stand in the corner…just like Sadness.

Being yellow, I don’t often see a good non-exploitative non-martial arts movie out of a studio featuring the yellow face unless it is practicing yellowface (e.g. “The Last Airbender”) or exploiting other stereotypes (e.g. “Memoirs of a Geisha”). I was happy that “The LEGO Movie” had a yellow face prominently displayed in its advertising. Then there was “Big Hero 6″ with Hiro, a kid leading a group of adults nerds that includes another East Asian ethnic (Go Go Tomago who dresses in yellow), a black OCD dude (Wasabi) and a white female chemist (Honey Lemon who is white, but likes the color yellow).  Now Joy is quite yellow.

So if Edelman wants to think about race then just what are the other characters who are definitely not white. Is Sadness a Na’vi from the world of Pandora? Is Anger a Native American? Is Disgust green because she’s a Martian or is she a Vulcan with an ear job? What about that purple Fear?

At least they didn’t go with yellow for fear as in “yellow belly” or are you yellow. And it isn’t even mellow yellow. It’s happy yellow. In China, yellow is an imperial color.

 

‘1913: Seeds of Conflict': European invasion causes discord

The 2014 documentary “1913: Seeds of Conflict” attempts to look at the shaping of the current conflict between Israel and Palestine, something that began long before World War II but not as far back as the origin of Islam. Jews, Christians and Muslims at one point shared Palestine as part of the Ottoman Empire. The documentary mixes contemporary interviews with re-enactments of historic written words. The documentary “1913: Seeds of Conflict” airs on PBS 30 June 2015 and will be available online VoD thereafter.

At the beginning of the documentary, the subtitle announces that “The dialogue spoke by the actors is drawn directly from the historical record” and the dialogue referenced is in different languages (French, German, Arabic, etc.) with English subtitles.

The year is significant in two ways. The first we learn early on. Film archivist Yaakov Gross had been looking for a 1913 film since 1975.  The film “The Life of the Jews in Palestine” was a Zionist propaganda documentary in French about the dream of a Jewish homeland, one that contrasted the persecution of Jews in Europe.

To understand the current conflict, the documentary takes us back as far as the 1800s, when the region was part of the Ottoman Empire. Palestine today was once part of several Ottoman provinces in the mid-1800s. At that time it was populated by 1/2 million Ottoman subjects which included 400,000 Muslims, 60,000 Christians and 20,000 Jews. Until the 1880s, half the Jews were Sephardic Jews.

Yet this would change. With the pogroms of Jews from Russia was one part of the problem. The percentage of Hasidic Jews who immigrated to Palestine was small, but it did create a change in the culture of Jews and of the balance between the religious factions in Palestine and Jerusalem.

Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Dockser Marcus is among the interviewees and her book “Jerusalem 1913: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict” serves as a the framework for the program.

While an Austrian would eventually cause World War II, it was an Austrian Jew who would begin the Zionist movement. Theodore Herzl, was Viennese Jew and a journalist who founded the Zionist Movement and of the World Zionist Organization that was focused on the creation of a Jewish state, using legal or illegal ways to do it.

Yet Jerusalem was a place that the Jews consider a Holy Land and that the European Zionists felt all Jews would rally behind. Before 1913, Jerusalem was once a place where a man such as Christian musician Wasif Jawhariyyeh could have a band that included Jews and Muslims and entertain people of all three religions.

When people like Russian Jew Eliyahu Zeˋev Levin-Epstein come to Palestine, they founded colonies. Levin-Epstein was the leader of the 1890 Rehovot Colony which had a conflict with the Bedouin tribe.

Abu-Ḥaṭaba,  Muslim Ottoman, the mukhtar and elder of the Abu-Ḥaṭaba Bedouin tribe was one of the people troubled by the colonization of the lands his people had used for centuries. Abu-Hataba wrote a petition to the Grand Vizier in Istanbul about the Jewish activity. This was the first, but not the last appeal to the Ottoman officials about Zionist activities.

The apprehension against the Zionists in Palestine and the continuing influx of Yiddish-speaking European Jews wasn’t just found in the Muslim population. Yusuf Khalidi, the mayor of Jerusalem between 1899 to 1907 warned against the Zionist cause. A Jew from Damascus, Albert Antebi, was a go-between the Jewish and Arabic communities in Palestine who worried about the influx of Russian citizens, even though they are Jewish. A Palestinian Orthodox Christian Khalil al-Sakakini was concerned about the Zionist movement. A Palestinian Greek Orthodox journalist Al-Isa wrote about Arab Nationalism and was opposed to the Zionist movement. Nissim Malul, a Sephardic Jew from Tunisia, advocated that Jews learn Arabic in order to peacefully co-exist with the Arabs.

The documentary “The Life of the Jews in Palestine” is integral to understanding the conflict not because of what we see, but what we don’t see. As part of the Zionist movement, the documentary ignores the presence of Arabs. The slogan of “A Land Without a People for People Without a Land” arises, reducing the Arabs of any religion to the same level as a rock or tree–part of a land. Yet the Arab is not a donkey and they had a much longer history on the land than the Russian and European immigrants.

The Zionist settlements eventually needed guards who at first were recruited from the locals and might have included Arabs of any religion but eventually were made into a specific organization peopled only by Russian Jewish immigrants who usually didn’t speak Arabic or Hebrew and were more likely to speak Yiddish. These guards were involved in an incident that in 1913 would cause an uproar and signify a change in cultural identity, pitting Jews against Arabs and foresees the conflict between Israel and Palestine of today.

Other experts include the director of the Israel Studies and 20th Century Jewish Histories International MA Program Gur Alroey, Paris-based historian Elizabeth Antebi, University of Haifa professor Yuval Ben-Bassat, director of the Hypercities digital research platform Etan Bloom, University of Florida associate professor Michelle Campos, Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University Beshara Doumani, Brooklyn College City University of New York assistant professor Louis Fishman, film archivist Yaakov Gross, MIT history lecturer Abiguail Jacobson, Illinois State University Palestinian historian of photography research fellow Issam Nassar, Ben-Gurion University associate professor Saposnik, UCSan Diego professor of sociology Shafir, and Birzeit University professor of sociology Salim Tamari.

Weaving together the past and present, we come to a moment when the culture changes, a definitive moment when a simple theft becomes a crime against not a person, but from the Jewish people and justifies a severe beating of the Arab thief. The identify of Ottoman identity is replaced by a dichotomy that pits Arabs against Jews. And a propaganda documentary invites even more European Jews to join the Zionist Movement that would eventually result in the establishment of Israel.

The thought-provoking documentary “1913: Seeds of Conflict” airs on PBS 30 June 2015 and will be available online VoD thereafter.

A Humble Proposal

Last year, two chefs made the rounds of the U.S. and happened to meet during a layover at LAX. The Korean chef looking at the calloused hands of the other and the book the man was reading and instantly recognized a fellow chef. Learning that the Chinese chef was hurriedly returning to Yulin for the annual Dog and Cat Meat festival, the Korean man relaxed.

They talked about the shocking problem of America, so many stray cats and dogs. Then the shock of the abundance of food while there were homeless and starving humans in America and the world. And after a long rambling talk of food and friendship and a few cups of wine, they devised:  “A Humble Proposal: For preventing unwanted dogs and cats of the people from being a burden to their country and making them beneficial to the public.”

The Yulin chef commented, “It is a melancholy for those who walk through this great country, when they see the streets and sidewalks crowded with beggars of the furry kind, followed by three, four or six puppies or kittens.  Every time one stops to eat and they cast a sad eye and either mutely or vociferously begging for a piece of food.”

“Yes,” said the Yulin chef, “These mothers, have not honest livelihood. They have no home. They are forced to spend their time pacing about to beg for sustenance. That no longer happens in Yulin. Stray dogs and cats are properly taken care of.”

“So to is the case in Korea,” the Korean chef added. “We have places where you can take your unwanted dog . Sure we have animal shelters and we hold the animals just in case they are pets, but after a certain amount of time, we kill those animals, but we don’t waste them. We put that meat to good use.”

“It’s a shame that eating  cats and dogs isn’t as widespread in China as it is in Korea,” said the Yulin chef.

“Not so,” the Korean chef corrected his new Chinese friend. “We only eat dogs and not cats. Yet perhaps if I did some research, say a study tour to Yulin, we could convince the Korean to eat cats as well. In Korea, we have dog farms, just like the Americans have chicken and turkey farms.”

The Chinese man looked thoughtful and wistfully said, “You have dog farms?”

“They have them here,” the Korean chef said. “They call them puppy mills, but the Americans are so wasteful. It’s like there pumpkin farms. Some pumpkins are grown for ornamentation and not eaten at all.”

“Yes, the Americans,” said the Chinese chef with a snort. “They complain about other cultures eating dogs and when reminded that the English eat bunnies, the Asian Hindus don’t eat cows and the Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork, they say it is because of the way we kill the dogs.” Seeing the Korean chef’s quizzical look, the Chinese chef explained, “We boil them alive. Sometimes we stun them then singe the skin off.”

“You mean like the traditional European way of cooking lobsters?” asked the Korean chef.

“Yes. They don’t mind the Japanese eating dancing shrimp either,” explained the Chinese chef. “One reason I came to the U.S. was to study the correct methods of killing livestock according to the Americans.”

“Not even Americans can agree,” the Korean chef said. “I’ve been here before and I visited a New Jersey slaughterhouse, one of the nation’s largest veal and lamb companies, and they didn’t care if a calf was conscious on a kill line. They dragged a conscious calf by a chain. they kick calves and pull them by their ears.”

“I hear in Europe they shoot day-old calves and don’t eat them,” the Chinese chef said with a sigh.

The Korean chef was quiet and looked furtively around and in a low voice said, “You know they do torture dogs in America. But for research. They torture animals for research here.”

 

The Chinese chef continued, “I went to the poultry farm. Americans are perfectly fine grinding up male chicks alive, electrocuting or throwing them alive intro trashcans to suffocate–one on top of the other. You could hear them peep, peep, peeping. Once the trashcan gets too full of the fluffy chicks, the workers, they stomp them down, with their own feet. Egg-laying chickens can be killed that way as well. Trashcans…one on top of the other.  If they are eating chickens, adult chickens, they can be boiled alive.  Not a problem.”

The Chinese chef commented,  “You know the difference is that Americans don’t like looking at their problems here. Americans are always telling other people how to live: Save the panda, but not save the coyote or the wolf.”

“Yes, they have shooting contests for coyotes here, but they don’t eat the meat,” the Korean chef said. “Just like those Japanese Buddhist who don’t eat meat, but eat chicken and fish.”

“Real Buddhists are vegans,” the Chinese chef said. “Luckily, Chinese eat everything with four legs or two wings, except tables chairs and airplanes.”

“That’s why there are no unicorns,” the Korean chef said with a wink.

“Don’t blame us for that!” the Chinese chef retorted. “I think St. George was slaying more than dragons.”

“Imagine,” the Korean chef said, “1.2 million dogs being killed each year in American animal shelters. What a waste. Americans could feed all its people and cure the stray dog problem if they ate dog meat.”

“Yes,” the Chinese chef said with a waggish look in his eye, “but how many of those are Chihuahuas?”

–parody written with apologies to Jonathan Swift.

 

 

‘Inside Out’ Is a Kid-Friendly Party at the El Capitan

You don’t have to plan a themed Disney Pixar party when “Inside Out” is playing that the El Capitan–just buy tickets and go. You’ll get a pair of yellow “Joy” glasses that are not for the movie, but for “The Music of Light Show.” Moreover, Pixar has taken real science by way of child psychology and made if fun!

First, you’ll have to line up. We had to pick up our tickets in the first line. Then we got in line for the VIP orchestra section. Once we grabbed out popcorn and drink, we settled into our reserved seats. The organ player didn’t come out of the stage and there is no special exhibit downstairs for “Inside Out,” but they do have a place for taking selfies of your and the cardboard characters as well as a control center like in the movie.

Before the movie, and after the trailers, five dancers will get you into the mood to meet those little voices in your head. You put on your Joy glasses as instructed. Dancers dressed in either red, yellow, green, blue or purple  hip hop to various pop songs (e.g. Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” and Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking in the Sunshine”) that evoke different emotions while 3D live LED “illuminations” come on the screen. A lot of it draws from video games.

If that doesn’t get your kid or the kid in you hopping, wait until they break out the joyfully yellow big inflated balls and you get to play volleyball with the rest of the audience. Do not wear fragile hairstyles or hats to this theater presentation.

I imagine that eventually the 3D experience will make video games like this–dancing inside of the computer (like Tron, but with better graphics and more colorful clothes).

Before “Inside Out,” you get to see the warm love story between two volcanoes, “Lava.” There’s a pun that will make you want to groan but this animated short which is written and directed by James Ford Murphy will like make you tear up. Kuana Torres Kahele and Napua Greig sing the dialogue.

[youtbe=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1t0A_tZGrYw]

From there we plunge into the world of Riley in “Inside Out.” Riley is a girl born in Minnesota and she a happy child. There’s not much dialog at first because Riley is a baby and she grows up and still holds on to Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) as her primary emotion with the other emotions–Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black)–taking orders from her.

The five emotions live in a headquarters that is literally in Riley’s head, her conscious mind. They control Riley’s actions and memories by using a control console that looks more like the TOS Star Trek Enterprise transporter room console than the bridge of a starship.

Memories are encapsulated into spheres. The spheres are different single colors based on the primary emotion attached to that memory. Most of the memories are gold colored. When Riley goes to sleep at night, the memories made that day go to the long-term storage. The most important memories become Riley’s core memories and are placed in a special hub in headquarters. These core memories power the five islands that can be seen from the headquarters. These islands represent parts of Riley’s personality: Family Island, Friendship Island, Hockey Island, Honesty Island and Goofball Island. You’ll have to decide what your islands are.

While Joy is the primary emotion and acts as an organizer of the other emotions, all the emotions have an important purpose.  Fear keeps Riley safe. Disgust prevents her from being poisoned. Anger insures that there’s fairness in her life. However, the four emotions aren’t sure what to do with Sadness. She seems to have no function and the other emotions ignore her.

both of Riley’s  parents ice skate and she loves hockey, skating outdoors on a pond. For this family, hockey brings the family together and is a core memory. When Riley is 11, her father gets a job with a start up in, where else? San Francisco. Riley is naturally upset by leaving her school and her friends. She imagines their new home will be spectacular, but finds that it is a small house squeezed between two other houses, without a yard. The moving company is delayed and so Riley ends up sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag.

As her mother argues with the movers and her father gets called away to work, Riley attempts to stay happy. That keeps the emotions busier than usual. As the emotions are busy attempting to deal with the new situations Riley faces, Sadness touches one of the golden yellow balls and turns it from a happy yellow gold memory to a blue one. Nothing Joy can do will erase the blueness. Sadness has changed  a  memory.

Joy decides to keep Sadness preoccupied by reading the mind manuals to prevent more memories being turned sad.

When Riley has her first day of school, she begins talking about hockey in Minnesota and Sadness make her cry in front of the class. That could become a new core memory, but Joy attempts to prevent the sphere from reaching the hub of core memories. All the core memories are knocked out of the hub and the islands of Riley’s personality are shutdown.

In the struggle, Joy, Sadness and the core memories are sucked up a tube that delivers most memories to other parts of Riley’s mind–long-term memory storage. The storage area is a labyrinth of tall shelves with numerous spheres on the other side of a deep, seemingly bottomless abyss. Headquarters rises from the abyss in the middle.

Some of those spheres are removed by workers who send those spheres into an abyss that is surrounds headquarters with only narrow paths crossing over to the islands. Those spheres become faded memories and are soon lost.

Without her core memories, Riley is lost and her islands one-by-one begin to crumble and fall into the abyss. Joy and Sadness must find their way back to headquarters, but Joy is hindered by Sadness who is too sad to move and must be dragged and from time to time touches some of the long-term storage spheres, changing them into sad memories.

During their journey, Joy and Sadness meet Bing-Bong, one of Riley’s imaginary friends who is wandering through the shelves of long-term memory and acts as a guide to take Joy and Sadness through to find a way back to headquarters.

With only Disgust, Anger and Fear left in charge, Riley begins to have problems with her parents and decides to run away and return back to the place of her happy memories: Minnesota.

Of course, you can count on a happy ending, making this a funny but family-friendly film worth seeing–even as a child-free adult. This is a beautiful story about growing up although children under 6 or 7 might find it a bit long and grow restless, at least judging from the 1 p.m. crowd.

Director Peter Docter was inspired by changes in his own pre-teen daughter and the screenplay team of Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley consulted with child psychologists while writing the script, giving this script heart-warming depth. Although now my husband jokes that I’m all Joy and Anger and he wonders where Fear and Disgust are.

Pixar fans, be on the lookout for Fritz who is voiced by Pixar’s good luck charm John Ratzenberger.

El Capitan Theatre screening is Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Dolby Vision uses “extended dynamic range 4K laser projection” for brightness and contrast. Dolby Atmos moves the audio that moves around the theater for a richer experience. The “Inside Out” show continues until 19 August 2015.

Running time of just “Inside Out” is one hour and 35 minutes.

New ‘Poldark’ brings dashing romance back to PBS: Episode 1 recap

When the weather is sweltering hot, why not turn up the emotional heat with a romance on the cool, windy shores of Cornwall? Our hero is Ross Poldark, a dashing British Army officer returning home after the American Revolution was won for us and lost for the British. Yet no hero’s welcome for him. Thought dead, his father has died, his inheritance a ruined estate and his beloved now engaged to marry someone else.

Poldark is based on Winston Graham’s (1908-2003)  historical novels that began with the 1945 “Ross Poldark” (known in the U.S. originally as “The Renegade”) and followed by the 1946 “Demelza.” The last novel, “Bella Poldark” was published in 2002. Graham lived in Cornwall since moving there at age 17. He also wrote the 1961 story “Marnie” which was made into 1964 movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren.

The first novel covered the years 1783-1787.  The American Revolutionary War ended in 1783.

The PBS series, “Poldark,” begins in 1781 and we’re not in Cornwall. We’re in Virginia. The first word we hear is, “Propose.” Poldark is sitting before cards and his opponent asks him to wager his gold pinky ring. He refuses. An officer scold Poldark for gambling yet again and asks him why he enlisted. “To escape the gallows, ” our hero replies. Ross Poldark (played with dark, smoldering passion by Aidan Turner) committed a bit of “free trading” (let’s translate that as smuggling) and assaulted a customs officials.

The officer asks Ross Poldark, “You doubt the justice of our cause, sir?

Ross replies, “And what cause would that be, sir? Liberty or tyranny?”

The cards are soon splattered with blood. The officers are shot and Ross Poldark takes charge, but he is knocked unconscious. Ross remembers how he got that ring; he took it from a laughing young woman with long curly medium brown hair, his Elizabeth. She asks him “Pray do not be reckless; I wish you to return.” She teases that he will forget her. He tells her, “Never.”

That’s before we even see the title, “Poldark,” with the many scenes of a man on a dark horse on a rocky cliff overlooking the darkened angry sea.

From there, we fast-forward to Cornwall, two years later. It is 1783. The American Revolutionary War has ended. Ross is in a carriage, still in uniform–tricorn black hat, the bright red “lobster back” long coat and the white shirt and pants. He now has a scar on the left side of his face. He overhears the other passengers gossiping about him and learns that he was thought dead, his father was also thought a bit scandalous (he was a libertine) and his father is now dead. Yes. Really dead. Six months ago.

With his father dead, he decides to visit his uncle at Trenwith, Charles (Warren Clarke) instead of going to his home, Nampara. As the youngest son, Ross’ father got the worst of the land and the property. Still in uniform, Ross visits his uncle’s grand estate to find a celebratory dinner in progress. At the table are his uncle, Charles; Charles’ son Francis (Kyle Soller); Great-Aunt Agatha (Caroline Blakiston); Elizabeth (Eleanor Tomlinson); Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Chenoweth (Sally Dexter);  and Francis’ spinster sister, Verity (Ruby Bentall). Only Verity truly rejoices at Ross’ return.

“I couldn’t have wished for a better homecoming,” Ross says, looking at Elizabeth.  Her joy is a bit more subdued.

Mrs. Chenoweth, Elizabeth’s mother,  cleverly asks her daughter to fetch her shawl. While Elizabeth is happy to see Ross and his face beams with joy, things soon change.

“I’ve seem to have interrupted a party. Is this in celebration of the peace or the next war,” Ross quips, cheerily. While Elizabeth is out of the room, Ross learns that Elizabeth is engaged to Francis, someone she barely noticed before. Ever the gentlemen, Ross congratulate the couple and leaves. He later learns from Verity the couple will be married in a fortnight (that’s two weeks).

Ross borrows a horse from his uncle Charles and journey’s home. There are chickens and clutter in the house.  We hear a goat. Ross quickly doffs his spiffy uniform and changes into darker duds. He wakes up his father’s personal servants Jud (Phil Davis) and Prudie (Beatie Edney) and warns them to get the place cleaned up. How could they have let the estate fall into such ill-repair, Ross asks.

Jud complains what were they to do without any guidance? “T’isn’t right, t’isnt fair, t’isn’t fit, t’isn’t friendly.”

Ross looks about at his ruined estate. He gazes out at the ocean. The winds blow. No, this is not a perfume commercial or a tourist advertisement. The beaches look too cold for a sunny holiday, but Turner’s Ross Poldark makes it look more like a great place for a romantic tryst.

The next day, Ross visits first the tenants. Their homes have not been mended since his father died. The tenants are glad to see Ross home and later, Ross will find them good enough company.

Ross goes to find out the state of his affairs from his banker. His father left little of value. There is the house, two derelict mines and a few cottages. His father had debt and his property is mortgaged. There is no income. He cannot borrow money from the banker, who advises him as a friend.

The economic problems aren’t limited to Ross’ inherited estate. All of Cornwall is suffering from high taxes (to pay for the American Revolutionary War one guesses), and the tin mines are being closed.  Men are out of work. If they can, people are leaving Cornwall.

There is another possible source of income. That’s when we meet an old frenemy of Ross. George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) oozes with envy as he tells his uncle, Cary Warleggan (Pip Torrens), “At school I rather admired him. He said what he thought, he did what he liked…It got him a following.” George suggests they might have a use for Ross Poldark. He might be able to open doors that are closed to them because they are viewed as grubby upstarts while the Poldark name is old.

Back at Trenwith, Elizabeth is accosted by her fiancé Francis. He asks her “An alarming prospect is it not? A lifetime with me. I cannot promise to be as fascinating as some or as bold or reckless. But one think I can promise you: my undying love and gratitude.” He asks her if there is something that troubles her or that there is something she wishes to tell him.

“I wish to tell you that I cannot wait to be your wife,” Elizabeth says. She has made the choice of good reputation and a solid and sound financial state. She followed her mother’s advice and not her heart.

Only then does Francis ride out to find Ross. Francis finds Ross at his tin mine. They decide to go and explore the mine. Francis tells Ross that his father, Uncle Charles, is concerned that Ross is making the right choices. “Face certain realities, accept that your future might lie elsewhere,” Francis says. Then he brings up his wedding. “You’ve not yet accepted our invitation…you must come. It is our dearest wish.” In the mine, after Ross yells at him, not to rub his nose in his upcoming wedding to Ross’ beloved and Francis slips and falls into a dark pool of water. Francis can’t swim, but Ross saves him, after a bit of hesitation. Will both regret that decision?

Nothing gets in the way of the wedding. We don’t really see the blushing bride and instead the camera focuses on Ross, who is at the back of the church. He remembers taking the ring from Elizabeth. Then he hears Elizabeth say, “I will,” he breaks out of his daydream. It has really been her choice.

At the wedding feast, Ross meets George and Verity mentions the Warleggans are on the rise. “Perhaps  I should have purchased her for you nephew,” Cary Warleggan comments to George while looking at the happy bride in earshot of the brooding Ross. George goes after Ross to tell him he can depend on “friends” but as Ross is leaving that conversation, Verity fetches Ross to speak with Elizabeth. Yes, Elizabeth now safely wed has decided to summon Ross to a private conversation.

“I thought you would come to see me,” Elizabeth says. “You know there was something, an understanding. Three years was a long time.”  Elizabeth tells him that it was her decision and asks if they might be friends.

“If you say so,” Ross replies. I’m not convinced and you won’t be either. Like any wounded brooding hero he goes home where he finds comfort in a bottle and casts that ring away. But has Elizabeth and her mother bet on the wrong Poldark? At Trenwith, Great Aunt Agatha reads tarot cards and says “The stronger rises as the weaker falls for all is fair in love and war.”

Charles and Francis are still worried about the Ross and Elizabeth attraction. Now Charles goes to talk with Ross. He reveals that his mines also are not producing. He suggests that Ross make a change of profession, the law or the church? He offers to pay for an education and his expenses. His brother, Ross’ father would have wanted it that way.

Instead, Ross decides to go to town where Ross sells his father’s pocket watch. His activities are not unseen. George and his uncle watch Ross as he buys livestock. But something else happens in the marketplace. A man brings a scruffy looking dog to face another dog, who is barking and straining at the leash. A crowd gathers to see the sport. Although Francis and Elizabeth and George and Cary are all part of the crowd, they do nothing to stop what is happening.

The dog, Garrick, belongs to a poor child.  She comes to retrieve her dog. The men make sport of her, pushing her about until she falls face down. Ross tells the man in charge of the dogfight to leave and disperses the crowd. At least, he’s a man of action.

The child is Tom Carne’s daughter from Illugan who is dressed in her brother’s clothes. She is hungry and has previously been beaten by her father. She has six brothers and her name is Demelza Carnes. Ross feeds her. Then he takes her on horseback to the crossroads between Illugan and Nampara. Before she has gone but a few steps, he offers her a job as a kitchen maid.

Jud and Prudie don’t welcome the girl, but Ross advises her to stand up for herself. Just when Ross thinks to send her home to her father, he finds her father is already there, but the girl is nowhere to be seen. He gives the father a thrashing and his friends and Jud give his fellows from Illugan a good beating as well.

After being told by Prudie she is causing too much trouble, Demelza, who was hiding in Ross’ house starts to go back to Illugan, but is stopped by Poldark. As they ride to the crossroads between Illugan and Nampara and London (Yes, literally at the crossroads), Elizabeth meets them on horseback and asks Ross not to leave because all that he cares for is in Cornall. Does she mean herself as well as his land? What she doesn’t mean is Demelza and one senses she not at all in favor of Demelza, now dressed as a woman, remaining at Ross’ home.

 

I haven’t seen the original series, but if you liked the Irish actor Aidan Turner when he played the dwarf Kili in “The Hobbit” trilogy, then you’ll undoubtedly enjoy seeing him as the romantic lead here. The 32-year-old Turner plays Ross Poldark as a more angry and troubled man than the dwarf Kili. Soller plays Francis as  descent guy who will suffer in comparison to his more dashing cousin and his secure financial status won’t be enough to sooth his ego. Tomlinson’s Demelza is hardly a threat to Reed’s cool Elizabeth as she is first introduced, but we know better. With her reddish hair and fair skin, she stills a bit rough around the edges, but Turner’s Ross hints at a roguish side.

Ross Poldark’s is becoming a man of the people, partially due to his financial circumstances and partially due to the war which forced him to grow up, yet the tale’s villain is one of those new rich George Warleggan (Jakc Farthing), an industrialist. Ross Poldark is a long-time landowner and thus has some status with the aristocracy while George Warleggan wants that kind of status and recoils from the common folk, the class of people he hopes to leave behind.

This is the second time BBC has adapted the Graham’s “Poldark” novels for television. The original series aired in 1975 and 1977 and starred Robin Ellis as Ross Poldark, Jill Townsend as Elizabeth and Clive Francis as Poldark’s cousin Francis. Ellis is now 73 and appears in the new series as Reverend Halse.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Warren Clarke, the actor who played Charles Poldark. Clarke died on 12 November 2014 (age 67).

“Poldark” airs on PBS on Sundays,9/8c on Masterpiece and is then available online on the PBS website.

Remodeling nightmare: ‘The New Rijskmuseum’ doc

Have you ever remodeled your house or lived in a building that underwent remodeling? Then you can sympathize with the madness of a renovation that began in 2003 and took longer than the estimated five years and then, needless to say, went very much over budget. That’s what happened with an old European museum, the Rijskmuseum and this documentary takes us through a condensed version of the process. Originally making its world premiere as an epic four-hour documentary in 2013, this version of “The New Rijskmuseum” has been trimmed down to a more modest and manageable 131 minutes (2 hours and 11 minutes).

Oeke Hoogendijk’s documentary was originally shown as four-TV episodes and the current version won an IDFA award for Best Dutch Documentary in November 2014.

For those unfamiliar with the Netherlands and who’ve never been to Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum is the Netherlands national museum and was first opened in 1885. It is located in Amsterdam, in the province of North Holland at the Museum Square. It is close to the Van Gogh Museum.

The museum has a very spiffy and modern website and its collection includes masterpieces by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) and Jan Havicksz Steen (1625-1779).

So if you’re wondering just how important a museum from a small country like the Netherlands could be, that should answer that question. Rembrandt is considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and was part of the Dutch Golden Age.  He was born in Leiden and died in Amsterdam.

Vermeer was born and died in Delft. His “The Milkmaid” and “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” are among his most famous paintings with the latter inspiring a movie. “The Milkmaid” is at the Rijksmuseum as well as three others.

With a building so old you can imagine that renovation was bound to be hard, but it proved to be an intense battle between a bureaucracy, the shifty sands of public opinion and the Dutch Cyclists Union resulted in a change of plans, a change of directors and a cost that exceeded $500 million. The project began under the museum director Ronald de Leeuw (1996-2008) but ended under the current director Wim Pijbes (2008-present).

You can see the transformation of de Leeuw from an enthusiastic leader to a disenchanted man longing to extricate himself from the unending criticism. Even the architects ponder why they must change the plans since they won the contract based on the design.

Your worries and paperwork will seem small and trite compared to the massive amounts of documentation, literally boxes and boxes. This might ease your pain or give you nightmares. The result looks wonderfully minimalist and this documentary serves as an invitation to see a monument to both art and patience.

“The New Rijksmuseum” opened today, 19 June 2015, at the Pasadena Laemmle 7. In Dutch, English, French and Spanish with English subtitles.

 

‘Waterfall': A different Asian-American romance

We’ve all had enough of American man in Asia romance stories. “Waterfall” turns that tired old genre around. A Thai man dreams of living in America, and falls in love with an American woman married to another Thai man.  This takes place pre-World War II so there’s some commentary that is both anti-American and anti-Japanese. That might be a bitter cup of tea to swallow, but there’s a lot of truth in this musical which is a welcome point of view change.

The musical is based on a Thai novel, “Behind the Painting” by Sriburapha and has been adapted for American audiences. Lyrics and book are by Tony Award-winner Richard Maltby Jr. (“Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “Miss Saigon”) and music by Oscar-winner and two-time Tony Award nominee David Shire). Director Tak Viravan is a leading figure in Thailand’s theater scene and he directed a Thai version of this show “Behind the Painting.”

The musical begin with a prologue in Bangkok after the war. It is 1945 and the main character, Noppon (Bie Sukrit) is hanging a colorful painting of a waterfall on the wall. His wife (Kimberly Immanuel) comments about it–the painting itself isn’t that good, and Noppon flashes back to 1932 when Thailand is still called Siam and Noppon was totally in love with all things American, but “the place that never changes has changed” and Noppon soon ends up in Tokyo on a special study scholarship. In Tokyo, he meets the elderly Ambassador from Siam Chao Khun Atikarn (Thom Sesma) to Japan, but more importantly he meets the 30-something American blonde wife of the Ambassador, Katherine (Emily Padgett).

Noppon falls in love with Katherine and her husband unwisely is too busy to take her around sightseeing and asks Noppon to be her guide. Katherine as a young girl have been to Thailand and her father had known Chao Khun Atikarn. Unbeknownst to the young Katherine, Chao Khun Atikarn had become infatuated with her. Later, when Katherine’s mother and father had died, leaving her in terrible debt, the now widowed Atikarn saved her and out of gratitude, Katherine married him.

The painting has a significance because at the very beginning Noppon tells us, “She danced with me and that one moment was a work of art.”

Yet this is an Asian point of view and Katherine becomes the figure of tragedy, perhaps justly so because of her own youthful indiscretions. Noppon’s indicretions doesn’t keep him from success and a good marriage. There’s a bit of comedy and a show of the changing times through Katherine’s servant Nuan (J. Elaine Marcos).  Besides Katherine, Noppon has a Japanese American friend, Kumiko (Lisa Helmi Johanson) to provide a contrasting viewpoint (“America Will Break Your Heart).

Padgett has a lovely, elegant voice that contrasts Sukrit’s more pop-inflected vocalizations. Yet that also sets her apart from Sukrit’s Noppon, making their poignant romance seem doomed. The contrast between Thailand and Japan is shown through dance, but the realization of Japan, particularly Kyoto doesn’t establish the contrast between Japan and Thailand.

In Thailand, women wear pants. In Japan, the women are in kimonos in Kyoto, and yet they walk as if they are in pants. Furthermore one key moment, when Katherine appears at an official function in a kimono, it isn’t clear if her faux pas is dressing in a kimono (the very sight being offensive to the Japanese official) or being in the wrong type of kimono. The Kyoto shopkeeper should have known and even Noppon should have realized it, but the Kyoto scene doesn’t show a differentiation at all between married women and unmarried women.

It’s also hard to hear the name Noppon and not think of the old Japanese world for Japan: Nippon. I don’t think that’s a mistake.

“Waterfall” is a pleasant musical, one that doesn’t have any catchy tunes, but it is a welcome view from Southeast Asia of Japan and the United States. The cast does a good job and there’s real chemistry between the boyishly charming Sukrit and cool Padgett.

“Waterfall” continues at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. and 7  p.m. $30-$87. For more information, call (626) 356-7529 or visit http://www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org.

‘Matilda the Musical’ teaches girls to release their brain power for the better

Hide the glue. Lock up your hair tonic and hair dye. Check your hat before you put it on…for the next two months, depending upon how long your kids can hold on to an idea. “Matilda the Musical,” isn’t a musical that has any haunting melodies or toe-tapping tunes, but it is a lot of fun for kids and your inner child. “Matilda the Musical” continues at the Ahmanson until.

This might not be the best musical to take your kids to for Father’s Day or if you’ve just had a tiff and it’s long enough to be too much for younger children.

That said, it’s not often that stories have a girl as the hero.  Matilda may be a child in her first year at elementary school, but she’s super smart and she doesn’t let her family dim the brightness of her brain. This musical production at the Ahmanson is best for older children since it runs long enough to have an intermission, but it’s a good chance for kids to see a smart girl saving the day.

The musical was originally staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2010 and eventually moved to the West End. It won seven 2012 Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical. In 2013, the Broadway version won five Tony awards, including  Best Book of a Musical. Music and lyrics are by Tim Minchin and the book is by Dennis Kelly.

The musical is based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 book, “Matilda.” Dahl also wrote “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Gremlins,” and “James and the Giant Peach.” As with those tales, there’s a bit of horror and a bad adult to be dealt with, but nothing really bad happens on our way to a happy endings. “Matilda” was also adapted into a movie directed by Danny DeVito.

In the musical, Matilda (Mia Sinclair Jenness at the performance I attended) is the child of an impatient and dishonest father, Mr. Wormwood (Quinn Mattfeld). Her mother, Mrs. Wormwood (Cassie Silva) gives birth to her when Mrs. Wormwood was scheduled to be at a dancing competition with her boytoy, Rudolpho (Jaquez Andre Sims). Matilda’s father has the high-hair of a guy with an inferiority complex. Neither find time for Matilda, and her father, who had hoped for another boy, always call her a boy.

Her birth may be a miracle of life, but the miracle of her brain goes unappreciated. Her father is always involved in shady deals and her mother is busy with her dancing. Her older brother, Michael (Danny Tieger) is glued to the TV. Matilda eventually finds herself most at home in the library and instead of the librarian telling her stories, she tells the librarian, Mrs. Phelps (Ora Jones) a story about two escape artists and their child.

When Matilda finally gets to school, she far ahead of her classmates but instead of them bullying her, they rally around her. They are, after all, facing a common enemy: the evil head mistress, Miss Trunchbull (Bryce Ryness).

Despite the lack of memorable music, the show is filled with humorous physical comedy bits and fun dance numbers. Ryness as Trunchbull takes full advantage of his lack of femininity, particularly in a hilarious ribbon dance–never to be repeated at a rhythmic gymnastics competition.

The musical is fun and the fact that it celebrates intellectual power over beauty or charm, makes it worth seeing for boys and girls.

Just keep your hair dye out of reach and make sure your kids or date doesn’t get any ideas about glue and hats!

“Matilda the Musical” continues at the Ahmanson until 12 July 2015.

Tickets for “Matilda the Musical” at the Ahmanson are available at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, by calling (213) 972-4400, and in person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Ahmanson Theatre. Tickets start at $25 (ticket prices are subject to change). Hot Tix, at $25 each, may be purchased in advance by phone or, subject to availability, on the day of performance at the box office (no checks). Group tickets are available by calling (213) 972-7231. For the Deaf community: Information and charge, TDD (213) 680-4017. The Ahmanson Theatre is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012

For more information, including tour dates, cities and tickets, please visit www.matildathemusical.com/tour.

 

‘Matilda’ Movie Is for Young Mensans

The heroine of “Matilda” is a girl who is smart, not just somewhat smart, but really smart. She’s smarter than her parents–if that is genetically possible, or maybe they’ve dumbed themselves down. Instead of becoming the object of ridicule at her school, she becomes the heroine, saving her fellow classmates from the bullying of the head mistress (a term borrowed from the book, where in the U.S. she should be a principal) and finding herself a better home. The movie is based on the 1988 Roald Dahl book of the same name. This movie is strictly for kids or the kid still in adults because it might give kids some bad ideas.

The 1996 TriStar Pictures stars Los Angeles-born Mara Wilson who was about 11 at the time of the movie and the movie is dedicated to her mother, Suzie Shapiro Wilson who passed away while the movie was in production (of breast cancer). Wilson was also in the 1993 “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

The movie is narrated by Danny DeVito who also plays Matilda’s father Harry. DeVito’s then-wife, Rhea Perlman, plays Zinnia, Matilda’s mother. Harry is a dishonest used car salesman who neglects his daughter in favor of his son, Michael, who is older. Zinnia is more worried about her looks, especially her bottle-blond hair and her bingo games.

Zinnia prefers to use the TV as a babysitter, but the precocious Matilda discovered the local library at age four and begins reading. This is highly discouraged by her parents, but at six, she begins to retaliate by mixing Harry’s hair oil with Zinnia’s hair dye so his brown hair becomes blond. She later puts glue in his hat, causing his hat to stick to his head. But Matilda has other powers. One day, she makes the TV explode.

Harry finally enrolls Matilda in a private school, Crunchem Hall, run by the violent Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris). There, Matilda meets the first person to truly appreciate how smart she is, her teacher Jennifer Honey (Embeth Davidtz). Honey is sweet but easily bullied by Trunchbull and we soon learn why: Trunchbull is her aunt.

Matilda will help her classmates and Honey defeat the cruel Trunchbull for a happily-ever-after ending.  When he flees the authorities due to his various shady dealings, Matilda is left with Honey, but with DeVito narrating the tale you get the feeling that things weren’t so sour with her parents in the end.

Under the direction of DeVito, Wilson’s Matilda isn’t sappy or overly precocious. She is rather plain looking and somewhat matter-of-fact.

“Matilda” is a story for geeky kids because the hero is a smart girl who doesn’t let other people dumb her down and uses her mind-over-matter, in this case a bit of telekinesis, to bring justice and find her own happiness. How often do movies allow a girl or a brainy one to be the hero of a tale? “Matilda” is available on Amazon to live-stream.

‘The Farewell Party’ Brings Humor to Senior Death Wishes

When my father died from complications of multiple sclerosis, I didn’t cry. In so many ways, it was a relief that my father was finally released from the prison his body had become. I’m sure that he was longing for death in those last months. Until someone discovers the fountain of youth, we all will die and we can’t always count the final release being quick, painless or peaceful. The Israeli movie “The Farewell Party” is about how a group of Israeli senior citizens at a Jerusalem retirement home who must face the problem of death and last requests with minor considerations of faith.

I say minor because religious faith isn’t the focus of this movie really. God does appear, at least in the mechanically distorted voice of Yehezkel (Ze’ev Revach). Yehezkel is a bit of an inventor and has used this skill to make a voice distorter to call his friend Zelda (Ruth Geller) and pretend to be God. He tells her that she must go on and live as best she can because there are no vacancies in heaven. His wife, Levana, tolerates his tinkering, yet when their friend Yana (Aliza Rozen) asks them to help usher her husband Max (Shmuel Wolf) into the next world both hesitate.

There is both a moral and legal issues. Eventually, Yehezkel is convinced death would be the merciful choice for Max. Yehezkel and Yana consult with the only doctor they can find at the senior home, a gay veterinarian Dr. Daniel (Ilan Dar). The vet provides medical advice and Daniel’s lover, a retired police officer (Rafael Tabor), gives legal advice. Yehezkel  looks at the contraptions made by the American Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the Australian Dr. Philip Nitschke, but Levana is opposed on moral grounds.

When Yehezkel makes a simple machine that allows Max to push a button and kill himself chemically, that isn’t the end of things. Others hear rumors and come to ask for Yehezkel’s help. The group is forced to help others.

Yehezkel  and Levana become estranged, but because she is suffering from dementia, she’s becoming increasingly dependent upon Yehezkel. On one particular day, she is so befuddled that she shows up to the cafeteria completely nude. That eventually results in the naked party featured in the publicity photos.

Life doesn’t have to be lonely, but we each face death alone. We can only choose how we face the last great adventure and hope that although we can’t take our friends with us, we will have friends around us as the end draws near.

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