DVD/Blu-ray review: ‘Woman in Gold’

Theft happens in war, that’s why we have that phrase of “rape and plunder.” It is only recently that we’ve begun to see warfare as a crime and connected it to other crimes like theft. “Woman in Gold” is a fictional account of a Los Angeles true story. The story is intelligently and sensitively told with a touch of humor under the direction of Simon Curtis and written by Alexi Kaye Campbell.

 Curtis noted that “immediately after the war, the human cost had been so disastrous with the loss of people and lives,” that we didn’t have time to consider other things, such as art. Curtis said, “The ‘Woman in Gold’ was last great hostage of World War II.”

The 2015 British-American “Woman in Gold” is inspired by the true story of Maria Altmann. Born in Vienna, Austria in 1916 as Maria Victoria Bloch, she was the niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Adele was the model for Gustav Klimt’s most famous painting, originally known as “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauther” and it was one of five Klimt paintings that the Nazis took from Altmann’s uncle and later ended up in the Austrian National museum.

The movie intersperses flashbacks throughout the film as Maria (Tatiana Maslany) recalls life in Vienna, Austria before the Nazi come into power and then we see the oppression of the Jewish community as they are sometimes helped and other times betrayed by their former community. Maria and her husband eventually escape. Her parents do not.

In the present day, the now elderly Maria (Helen Mirren) is widowed and has recently buried her sister. In her sister’s papers she finds notes about the Klimt paintings. She asks a friend of the family, Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), a young lawyer, to take the case. They end up on a road trip to Austria, a place that Maria doesn’t really want to see again and yet seeing it, she also sees some comforting ghosts from her past.

Maria and Randol meet up with Austrian journalist Hubertus Czernin, a man who has devoted himself to investigating the claims of stolen Nazi art. Together, these three will take on the Austrian government in the U.S. and in Austria.

For the director who had been working on this project for about six years, “the most important (he wanted people to take away from the movie) was that people forget especially the young about the progress made coming into this troubled century, that terrible things  happened in the last century.”

With the chemistry of Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds together, Curtis was able “to bring a lot of the humor to the film” which Curtis wanted so that the subject matter would be “approachable as possible” despite being a legal drama.” And it is also “an odd couple  journey” where we get to see different aspects of life in Vienna.

If you have seen the movie in theaters and liked it, then you’ll still want to get this DVD/Blu-ray. The extras make it worthwhile.

The special features include “The Making of ‘Woman in Gold,'” Feature commentary with Director Simon Curtis and Producer David M. Thompson and the “Stealing Klimt” documentary trailer. Through these you’ll get to see and hear more about the actual Maria Altmann and her lawyer E. Randol Schoenberg. The case changed Schoenberg’s life.

While some people have express disappointment that Altmann didn’t donate the painting to a public institute, Curtis said that as the rightful owner, Altmann had an absolute right to do as she wished with her property and provide for herself and her family.

In the commentary, you’ll here some of the reasoning for certain scenes and will be able to see some of the real people who make cameos in the film. Although the real journalist Czernin died not long after Altmann won her paintings back, his three daughters are in the crowd scene. Curtis calls him one of the unsung heroes of this whole case.

“Woman in Gold” is worth seeing to remember what war is and what art is and to know how stubborn pride resulted in the “Woman in Gold” leaving Vienna and taking up residence in New York where she is currently on view.

Thoughts on ‘Spirited Away’

In 2002, I dragged my then-boyfriend reluctantly to see “Spirited Away.” The screening was attended by some parents who brought their too-young children expecting to see something simple and diverting, but there was an exodus as it became clear that this wasn’t a movie aimed at entertaining children on a simplistic level.

Now that it has come out on Blu-ray, I’ve had the opportunity to play it over and over again, listening to first the original Japanese and then to the English dubbing and back again to the Japanese. The English subtitles are not the same as the English dubbed dialogue. The dubbed dialogue attempts to match up English words with the animated lip movements and yet that in itself is problematic.

Women in the U.S., particularly in my region are more likely to give broad toothy smiles. In Japan, women do not laugh showing their teeth. If you see a Japanese woman laughing and showing her teeth it means something–perhaps that she is coarse or perhaps she has adopted foreign ways.

We can see a lot of foreign influence in what the family encounters in “Spirited Away.” The family has a foreign car (Audi). The daughter, like many Japanese, eats Kit Kat bars–hugely popular in Japan with limited edition flavors. The family visits Kinokuniya, the largest bookstore chain in Japan. For foreigners in Japan, it was well-known for offering books in European languages.

The movie is called “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” (千と千尋の神隠し). Sen means a thousand, but the pronunciation of the character can change to “chi” as it does in the name Chihiro. The “hiro” in Chihiro means to ask questions. Kamikakushi means spirited away with kami meaning spirit or god and kakushi meaning hidden. So perhaps we can translate the title as “Sen and the Mysterious Disappearance of Chihiro.”

As the father, Akio Ogira, takes a dirt road that leads the family to what seems to be an old amusement park, Chihiro notices the stone statues. She’s somewhat disturbed by them, but her parents don’t seem to notice. There is a disarray of stones near the entry way and Chihiro’s mother tells her those are spirit houses, but thinks little more of it. There’s another stone statue at the entry gate and Chihiro pleads with her parents not to enter. Doesn’t she seem whiny and almost hysterical?

Now this is crucial: pacing. We’ve had two brief moments of foreshadowing before entering the tunnel. Is there really nothing else until the transformation of the parents?

Inside the tunnel we see a waiting room and then outside the tunnel, there are more stone statues up a hill. We see buildings. On the first building we see an incomplete phrase. Alone the character 正 would be read “sho” or “sei” and means right, righteous, justice and genuine, but 正 also suggests 正しい, meaning correct, right, honest and truthful.

There are other signs, such as 三千眼  (3,000 eyes) and 塩 (salt). I wonder about the repetition of  “me” (眼 or め) in the movie.  Eyes can mean so many things and figures in many idiomatic phrases. There’s also a repetition of “yu” with different meanings.

We see 生あります posted on a corner which Chihiro and later Sen passes several times during the movie. The character 生 in this phrase  means raw and usually refers to beer.  When we get to the main street we see the characters  市場 for market (ichiba) and the word 自由 (jiyuu) for freedom.

Then there are some disquieting Chinese characters. The mother says that all the places are restaurants. When you see 天 float by you might think 天ぷら (for tempura), but actually the characters are: 天祖 (tensoo) for the ancestral goddess of the sun, Amaterasu. In one frame we see only 天狗 (tengu), with “ten” above and “gu” below.  The character 狗 means dog, but can be used for dog meat (狗肉)which is not commonly eaten in Japan (and could suggest the homophone 苦肉 or “kuniku” which  literally means bitter meat meaning a countermeasure that requires personal sacrifice). The character usually used for dog is 犬.

Floating at the corner of one building is 骨 which means bone and it could be a restaurant term as in the creamy broth: 豚骨 (tonkotsu) which is literally pig bone. Yet bone or “hone” is used in idiomatic phrases such as hone-nashi meaning to lack moral backbone.

There’s a repetition of terms for fat such as 脂 (abura) and 油 (abura). The first suggests meat and flesh because the radical (肉 or 月) represents meat. The second suggests liquid because of the radical sansui or three water drops. The latter is also a common term for cooking as in  油揚げ (abura-age or oil fried).

When we look above at the arch, there is also something off.  The characters are 飢と食と会 which seem to substitute for 飢える (ueru, to starve),  食べる(taberu, to eat)  and 会う(au, to meet).  The と signifies “and.” It should read eat ( 食べる), drink (飲む) and meet (会う) or something like that, but the last two symbols are backwards–on either side.

Just before the father Akio (昭夫) turns into the narrow alleyway that leads to the sumptuous meals, we see him framed by two large characters. On the left is the character for heaven (天). On the right, is the character for demon(鬼 or oni). That I believe foreshadows what happens next.

Akio sees large plates with piles of meat. That never happens in Japan. Rice is the filler and you generally eat meat sparingly. You rarely see a whole chicken or bird.  The buffet would be sumptuous by American standards and in Japan, suspiciously grand and unreal. While the father makes assurances that he can pay with his credit card, are they really that wealthy?

Chihiro perhaps here further notices something is wrong. She refuses to eat. Sure she was probably eating Kit Kat on the drive down, but she won’t even venture a bite. Instead, she leaves the alleyway and above her, we seen the character, 冢 (tsuka), which means hill or mound. Yet this is not the preferred character which would be 塚 (also read tsuka). The small cross represents ground or earth. Without that radical, 冢 is only one stroke different than the word for house  家 (uchi) which is the same one used for the combination that means family 家族 (kazoku). The significance here is that pig (豚 or buta) under a roof represents house/home 家. That quick flash of the character gives the suggestion of pig and family. Yet it is also like bone (骨  or hone) associated with death as in grave (冢穴).  The usage of the character for abura or fat also ties in with the word for obesity (脂肪過多).

Abura is the character that predominates and stands for the public bathhouse or a yuya (湯屋)but in this case, the usual yu is 湯 and instead we have 油 and there’s okurigana to tell us we should read it yu instead of abura so that this yuya 油 屋 becomes a pun for the other type of yuya 湯屋 .

The “yu” is repeated in the mother’s name 悠子 or Yuuko. On one discussion board in Japanese, someone posted a comment that perhaps if we put yu (ゆ)and me (め)together, we have yume (夢)which means dream.

If we are looking at the names of the family, Ogino, 荻野, then we also have another suggestion of barbarian with the first character (which means reed) without the grass radical. The mother’s name derives from “yuu” meaning distant or longtime. The father’s name, Akio (明夫 ) means sunny and the last character means husband or man.

Although there is no characters given for Haku whose real name is Kohakugawa, I think most people who read Japanese would instantly think 小白川 or small white river and that seems to be confirmed when Haku is seen to be a white dragon. Dragons are associated with water in Japanese and Chinese mythology.

Other names have meaning, some of which I would translate differently. Yubaba (湯婆婆) means hot water old woman. Baba doesn’t mean witch (魔女 or maho) as I see it translated in some places. B It can mean a wet nurse and婆 is the character used for grandmother (婆さん).aba can also mean grandmother with different characters (祖母). Her twin sister is Zeniba (銭婆) and the “zeni” means a zen or one-hundredth of a yen and that’s not a lot of money at all. Today 3 July 2015, the yen equals 0.0081 of a US dollar. Zeni does mean money and is used in phrases such as the coin slot for machines. Zeni is a homophone for 善意 or good intentions.

Kamaji ( 釜爺) means kettle old man with kama meaning kettle and ji meaning grandfather.

Another katakana name is カオナシ which a reader of Japanese would assume to be 顔なし and literally means to be without a face. There is an expression in Japanese for someone not to have a face which means to be ashamed ( 君に合わせる顔がない or I am ashamed to meet you). 

The servant woman who helps Sen is named Rin or リン which is oddly translated Lin even though Japanese does not have an “L” sound. Someone who reads Japanese might think that this person also had her identity stolen and her name was perhaps Hayashi (林)which can also be read “Rin.”

As with the movie “When Marnie Was There,” which was released on 19 July 2014,  the release date (20 July 2001) for “Spirited Away” in Japan was right about the time for Obon, when people would be expected to return to their true homes and spirits were believed to be traveling back to their earthly homes to meet with their descendants. If you keep that in mind, the movie makes more sense.

However, I’m writing this essay mostly to talk about my A-ha moment, when I realized just how the changes in the amusement park were foreshadowed. That alone makes this DVD/Blu-ray worth purchasing.

 

Reflections on ‘When Marnie Was There’

“When Marnie Was There” ties together two Japanese summer festivals: Tanabata and Obon. Originally released in Japan on the 19 of July, the original Japanese title was “Marnie no Omoide” (思い出のマーニー) or “Memories of Marnie.”

According to Japan-Guide.com, Obon is an annual Buddhist event where one commemorates the return of one’s ancestors to this world. The spirited come to visit their relatives.

By the lunar calendar it was the 13-15 days of the 7th month of the year.  Using the solar calendar, that would be mid-August, but out of tradition and practicality, Obon is celebrated at various times in various regions.

Obon week in mid-August in one of Japanese three major holiday seasons (the other two are New Year’s in January and Golden Week in April).

The Chinese characters for Tanabata literally mean the evening of the seventh. The tale of Tanabata likely comes from China. The tale of Tanabata has many variations, but the legend is about two lovers, Orihime (織姫 Weaver Princess ) and Hikoboshi (彦星 or牽牛 Cowherd), who are separated by the Silver River  or the Heavenly River (銀河系 or 天の川  what we call the Milky Way). They were once married, but neglected their duties so they were separated. They can only meet once a year–one the seventh day of the seventh month, when the magpies build a bridge across for their rendez-vous. If it should rain, they must wait another year.

The festival is celebrated on 7 July and into August. Although  “When Marnie Was There” was originally set in Great Britain and written by Joan G. Robinson, this Studio Ghibli movie was released on 19 July 2014 (except for “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Grave of the Fireflies” and “My Neighbor Totoro,” all Studio Ghibli movies had their Japanese release in July or August) and and is set on the Northern most of the four main islands of Japan, Hokkaido.

The 12-year-old brown-haired, grey-eyed Anna Sasaki (佐々木 杏奈) lives in the centrally located inland capital of Sapporo with her foster parents. She watches other girls her age, but feel that she is on the outside. “In this world, there’s an invisible circle.” For some reason, Anna has changed from a happy child to a sullen, angry outsider. When Anna suffers an asthma attack, her foster parents sent her to live in the small coastal town of Kushiro with the foster mother Yoriko’s relatives, Setsu and Kiyomasa Oiwa.

In Kushiro, across the seaside marsh, there’s a mysterious abandoned mansion that is decidedly exotic in its European-style rooms and windows. Crossing over at low tide to explore, Anna feels a certain familiarity about the house, but when she is ready to leave, the tide has risen and she can no longer cross over.

An old fisherman, Toichi, picks her up and takes her across in his rowboat. Looking back, Anne imagines the mansion as it once was–beautiful and well lit.

Back at the Oiwa’s house, a traditional Japanese home, Setsu tells her that the mansion was once the vacation home for some foreigners, but has been vacant and become rundown.

In her dreams, Anna sees a girl with her long blonde hair being brushed by an older woman in a kimono.

On the night of the Tanabata festival, Setsu encourages Anna to make friends with other young people. Where most people might wish for good grades or better skills in sports, Anna wishes only to be normal.  After saying mean things to one of the local girls, Anna runs away, ending up at the marsh where she meets Marnie–the long blonde girl in her dreams.

Marnie and Anna become friends, but Marnie has asked Anna to keep their meetings secret. One evening Marnie invites Anna to a party at the mansion. In the evening light, the mansion is beautiful, but the party very un-Japanese. The people enter the house with their shoes on and the men and women are coupled. Marnie disguises Anna as a flower girl, and later, Marnie meets with a boy named Kazuhiko.

Eventually, a new family moves into the house and Anna meets the girl Sayaka, who now lives in Marnie’s old room. Sayaka has found Marnie’s diary and together Sayaka and Anna try to learn what happened to Marnie.

Some other things to keep in mind about Japan when watching “When Marnie Was There.” When Anna is taken in by Oiwa, we see them treat her to sushi and watermelon. To a Japanese person, sushi would seem like a special treat and watermelon in Japan is quite expensive.

Marnie’s grandmother is shown always, to my memory having seen it only once, dressed traditionally, in a kimono. Marnie’s mother and father are shown as having to a large extent rejected Japanese traditional values. The house is built in European style both inside and outside. While many modern houses and apartments have taken a European style, that is usually limited to the outside and the inside at least has a genkan (entry way) where you take off your shoes). While most women in contemporary Japan wear Western style clothes, they still adhere to certain customs. Yet in the party scene, we see Marnie enter the room with her shoes on. The rest of the guest have their shoes on in the house. This isn’t just a Japanese custom, the removal of shoes before entering a home is very East Asian, something you’ll see in China and Korea. I understand it has carried over to Hawaii.

You have to wonder if the grandmother is unusually traditional or if we’re in a time period when women still wore kimono or, at least, the grandmother is from a time period when women normally wore kimono. Yet even if the grandmother was from more contemporary times, she and others of her generation would still remove their shoes before entering a house. Without noticing this, one might  judge the grandmother more harshly instead of seeing the dynamics of a generation gap and even a very natural reaction by the grandmother to her daughter’s total rejection of current Asian customs. There is, of course, also the consideration of racism, or zenophobic sentiments on the part of the grandmother.

The account we get of the grandmother is from Marnie’s point of view, and the grandmother doesn’t get to tell us her side of the story. Moreover, Marnie’s mother, even from Marnie’s point of view, is an absentee parent as is her father. The grandmother might resent being made into a parent for no other reason than the parents are too self-involved.

Still Marnie returns to a moment when her life was filled with hope, when she was loved by a good friend and falling in love with the boy she would later marry. The vacation home seems to be her furusato, the home she returns to for Obon and the place where she is able to visit and help Anna. This is a haunting in a gentle Obon sense that might strike a deeper chord in the soundtrack of the Japanese culture.

 

‘Magic Mike XXL’ is a celebration of the sexy male body in dance

Recently, I was in a dance appreciation class where one of the male students wanted to talk about twerking yet all the video examples he brought for us to view were of women twerking. I asked about men twerking and that kind of weirded him out. Apparently, he hadn’t seen the 2012 movie “Magic Mike” or imagined that women would find something more vigorous and articulated than the Elvis Pelvis erotic. “Magic Mike XXL” expands the focus on the male dancers compared to its predecessor. The previous movie was darker; this one celebrates the the bonding of single sex dancers during a road trip.

Yes this is part bromance and part road trip film, but to be sure there is plenty of dancing. While F-bombs fly, we won’t see flying penises but flashing cheeks of the nether regions. There’s no full frontal nudity. The men wear their thongs, but keep their dicks covered.

“Magic Mike XXL” is a more positive movie than its predecessor and relies more heavily on Channing Tatum and his gang of male entertainers (strippers). Gone is the slick and sleazy Dallas (played with admirable oily charm by Matthew McConaughey) and the young, misguided horn-dog Adam (Alex Pettyfer).

For those who didn’t see the 2012 “Magic Mike,” Tatum played the titular character, the lead dancer at a male strip club owned by Dallas, a former stripper and now money-grubbing manager and owner of a Tampa club. Magic Mike introduces Adam to the lifestyle and Adam, a directionless college dropout, plunges in, loving the easy money, easy sex and gets a little entrepreneurial with a drug dealing on the side. Adam has a responsible sister, Brooke, who eventually couples up with Mike. Mike leaves the lifestyle for a more settled life and to start his own custom furniture business.

“Magic Mike XXL” opens up three years later. Dallas has departed for a better market in Macau and taken with him Adam. Brooke has left Mike soon after he proposed. Mike has started his company, but has to struggle with his one employee. Out of the blue, he gets a call from his old dance crew and they convince him to show up and join their last chance road trip from Tampa to Myrtle Beach for the annual male stripper convention. He joins Ken (Matt Bomer), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) along with the old DJ and Ecstacy dealer Tobias (Cabriel Iglesias) and they begin the journey in a gourmet truck specializing in yogurt. Along they way, the men enter a queen dance contest and a pick up a new DJ and some new crew members after they lose their old DJ and the truck is in an accident.

As the other contemplate life after the convention when they’ll have to find something to do besides stripping, Mike meets a potential new love interest (Amber Heard) and one of the guys finds his Cinderella (Andie MacDowell).

“Magic Mike XXL” is a more positive movie, emphasizing the camaraderie between the dancers and even showing how a little sexually-charged flirtation can be emotionally healing to some, such as the recently bitterly divorced.  If you’re thinking that the dancing is too overtly sexual remember that before Miley Cyrus was twerking, the young kids were doing that and more on the dance floor. Part of the urban dance trend has been basically dry sex or dry humping in public.

Tatum was a stripper and the original movie was inspired by his experiences. With McConaughey out of the picture, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning Bomer has a more prominent role here although the third degree reiki healer schtick is less convincing than his wanna-be actor who can sing characterization. His vocal talents are balanced by the rapping of the Grammy-nominated Glover. The dance numbers are different and there’s even a let’s-make-a-last-minute-show urgency to justify the new dance numbers. The dance highlight is a match up between Tatum and “So You Think You Can Dance” alum tWitch. While Tatum was in the original “Step Up” and “Step Up2: The Streets,” tWitch played Jason in “Step Up 3D.” 

As with the Step Up series, you don’t go for good dialogue or convincing plot devices. You go to see dancing and in this case, you go to see men with etched abs and chesticles (DWTS fans will understand)and some cheek flashing. For those who appreciate the male form, there’s a lot of it and this time, their purpose in life is to make their female audience feel like royalty, even if only for a brief moment.

 

‘Poldark’ Episode 2: To dare to hope

While we swelter in the summer heat, PBS takes us to the blustery coast of Cornwall in “Poldark.” In episode 2, one can “dare to hope.”

This episode starts with the sun coming through the boards of a mine. Poldark is busy studying diagrams and maps of the tin mine, Wheal Leisure.

Jud (Phil Davis) is with him and intones, “‘T’is in the blood,’ your father’d said. ‘Mining t’is in the blood …t’is the bread of life…She’s your salvation and your downfall. It’d make you reckless, make you bold.”

Again, we have men in red coats. They are again on the “wrong” side of a war, but this war is one of commerce. They won’t let the miners in. No work; no money. Wheal Reath is closed. It’s owner, Lord Bassett, dresses himself in his best coat and wig. He ties and neatly arranges his neck scarf as the bailiffs are knocking at his door. Then he puts a bullet through his head.”

With the closing of Wheal Leisure,  Wheal Grambler is the only mine left open and Grambler belongs to Ross’ uncle, Charles. We already know that Charles (Warren Clarke) doesn’t pay them well.

Elsewhere, George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) has his conscience polluted by his uncle, Cary Warleggan (Pip Torrens).  George wonders if they will be blamed for the mine closure. Cary simply says, “Did we furnish the pistol?”

“We called in his loans,” George says.

“No, we declined to extend them,” his uncle replies. “Are we in the business of sentiment or profit,”

George now has a wench, who is about to leave for her other job. George tells her he must now call him “Sir.”

“These ancient families lack backbone,” George says. “It’s a wonder they survive.” A little class hate and a bit of slumming. George can’t seem to find a woman to court.

After consideration, Ross returns the money to his uncle, Charles. If you recall, in the last episode after Francis married Elizabeth, Francis and Charles worried about Ross. They know that Elizabeth has a greater attraction to her. Francis had given Elizabeth the chance to call of their engagement, but due to her mother’s words of wisdom (reputation and money matter), Elizabeth decided against rushing over to see Ross. Charles advised Ross to go to London and find a profession–be a lawyer or what not. Charles provided him with the funds. Hearing this, Elizabeth then rushed to see Ross, but when she meets him at the crossroads, he is not alone. He has retrieved Demelza (Eleanor Tomilinson) at the crossroads. Yes…symbolic, but this is TV.

Ross still has Elizabeth’s gold ring although he no longer wears it.

Charles and Ross discuss the death of Lord Bassett. Ross knows that the problem was with the Warleggans, but Charles tells him, “Everyone has loans with the Warlegans.”

Ross asks, “That doesn’t alarm you?”

Charles shows just how clueless he is about the Warleggans, saying, “George is like a brother to Francis.” Yes, but not all brothers are kind and loving.

While Ross is there, he notices his other cousin and says, “You must visit me soon, Verity.”

“She has no time for gadding about,” Charles exclaims. Oh, Charles. How cruel you are. Did you treat your wife any better? Remember in the last episode Charles had also treated Verity as if she was his indentured servant–an unpaid housekeeper.

Elizabeth (Heida Reed) watches Ross come and go from her bedroom window. After Ross is gone, Francis comes in to see her. “Perhaps I should rest a while,” Elizabeth says.

“Shall I join you?” Francis asks and that only makes Elizabeth look forlorn. Do you think she regrets her choice yet? Does one imagine she sees Ross’ face while she’s with Francis?

Ross has taken in Jim as a foreman. Others ask Ross to take them on, telling him his uncle plays them starvation wages. Ross hesitates to cross the line and anger his only living relatives? Is blood really thicker than the ties of friendship.

Ross is reconsidering his mine. It’s there that Francis meets him. Francis tells him that he’s glad he’s not leaving for London because, “We’ve always been more friends that cousins.”

“I’ve been wondering if this mine has finally been worked out?” Ross explains. Now we learn just how ineffectual Francis is. Francis knows nothing about mines and mining even though he is the only son and expected to take over eventually.

“Father doesn’t trust me with responsibility,” Francis confesses.  “He likes keeps the mysteries of mine-owning to himself.” Oh, Elizabeth. You married a man who has no backbone and no real skills except dressing well and being polite in polite society. Can that be a mistake?

“Perhaps we should open the mine together,” Ross says, feeling generous.

Ross then goes to see his favorite banker, Harris Pascoe, who tells him, “You’d require investors” but Ross might have problems because he has “a reputation somewhat tarnished?” Remember Ross joined the army to avoid being charged as a smuggler and assaulted an officer of the law.

When Ross stops for a drink at the tavern he is approached by the wench we just saw with George. She offers him her services, but when he declines, she reads his palm and tells him “Better days ahead.” She also senses that Ross loves a woman who is lost for him. “Perhaps she loves you still.” Yes, Ross does dare to hope.

Back at Ross’ estate, Nampara, Verity rides out while her father is away. She only has an hour before he returns. As they both pass Demelza who is hanging laundry, Ross introduces them.

Verity asks,  “Has she settled?”

Ross replies,  “Still somewhat feral.” Earlier in the episode we saw Demelza complaining about washing her hair and she also added that she hates taking baths. Servants in the Poldark house must takes baths.

Verity has taken her one-hour vacation from her jailer-father with a mission in mind. She asks, “I wonder if I might ask you the greatest of favors.”

More will come of that, but we also find that Francis is asking his wife,  “Will you not reconsider? You know how I love to show off my wife to the world.” It seems his greatest accomplishment is marrying Elizabeth.

Ross’ mission is to take Verity to the dance assembly, but Demelza notes “He don’t look too glad about it.”

Prudie replies, “Gentlefolks is strange.”

At the dance, Ross assures Verity, “As official escort, I’m entirely at your service.”

Verity quickly replies, “Don’t be.” Verity has her own mission, but she also tells Ross, there are “a great many girls who would be glad to acquire the name of Poldark.” Yes, this is a mating ritual  in polite society.

George manages to politely raise the level of hostility by finding Ross alone in a small room and asking, “Not dancing Ross? Will none of the ladies have you?” Do you think that George is projecting his situation on to Ross?  George advises him to try and get the stink of the lower classes off of him by using perfume. It must work for him, because “Indeed..how would a family of blacksmiths become bankers.”

Elizabeth does come on the arm of Francis. Francis has accomplished something this week. Ross is accosted by a young lady hoping for a bit of romance.

Ross asks Miss Teague, “How do you find your first ball?”

Miss Teague coyly replies,  “Exceeding all expectations.” She wonders if Ross is on her dance card? I guess this is how women indirectly asked an eligible man to dance.

“I fear I possess few of the refinements of polite society,” Ross says kindly before he slips away.

Verity is more of a gentlelady. She has to be. She is not young and fresh although her family is well thought of. She is sitting alone at the edge of activity. A gallant gentleman comes to her rescue. Verity meets Captain Andrew Blamey (Richard Harrington) and gamely smiles and says she is so interested in learning more about ships.

While the masters play, the servants still work. Demelza is scrubbing floor and then sneaks into Ross’ office and looks around at a piece of ore (copper) and the diagrams and maps.

Jud catches her there and tells her, “Go home, back where ye come from. You don’t belong here.”

While we are on the subject of mines, back at the party Ross meets a few people who might become investors while Verity learns about masts and sails.

The captain asks, “If I might dare to hope” to pay court to Verity. Of course, being a proper gentleman, he wants to ask her father, Charles. You can see trouble looming here, right?  Winston Graham, the original author, and script writer Debbie Horsfield, won’t leave off there. The captain is single for a reason. He has a secret. More on that later. 

While Ross didn’t want to dance with Miss Teague, but he does take time to dance a cotillion with Elizabeth. Apparently Francis also can’t dance. That gives George an opportunity to lurk and slither. He whispers into Francis’ ear, “Captain Blamey. Master of the Lisbon packet. A pretty catch…at her age she wouldn’t get more chances,” he says as they look at Verity in earnest conversation with her captain. For the first time, we see Verity happy, excited and hopeful.

Then we have proof that Francis is as boorish as his father or at least he is clueless, “But father couldn’t spare her.”

George twists the emotionial knife in by saying, “And Elizabeth would miss her though doubtless your wife would find ways of distracting herself.” George gives a meaningful look at Ross and Elizabeth.

Francis sees how Ross and Elizabeth look at each other. They start off the dance stiffly. Then as they begin to enjoy dancing, she smiles and his gaze softens. Eventually, their smiles are open and their eyes are filled with joy. I’m guessing that’s something Francis never sees when he’s alone with Elizabeth.

Verity introduces Captain Andrew  to Ross and her sister-in-law Elizabeth. Ross and Elizabeth want to be on their own, but Verity chases after them and warns him to take care. People are watching.

Ross leaves the dance in such a state that he stops at the tavern and decides to take up the tavern wench on her offer. As he returns home, he decides to take a bath himself and undresses at the beach where Demelza happens to be. He doesn’t see her as he goes into for a bit of skinny dipping and Demelza doesn’t avert her gaze.

While he’s thinking about his Francis and Charles problem, Charles comes to visit and asks Ross to allow Francis in on his risky enterprise. Charles hopes that it will help Francis to learn to do something. “He must learn to stand on his own two feet. You must help him.” Everyone must help Francis.

Ross wisely brings up the matter of discretion,  “especially with his good friend George.” Charles still thinks that George will bring no harm to the Poldarks.

Ross takes Demelza on his horse to the village. “It’s an important day for us both,” he says,  “Let’s see who can strike the better bargain.”

Ross meets Elizabeth. As a gentleman, he asks to carry her parcels. Their hands touch and linger a bit too long. She suggests Ross pursue Ruth Teague. Ross asks, “Would that please you?”

Elizabeth says, “I have to go. Verity will be looking for me.” Yet Verity is actually looking for someone else.

Elsewhere, Demelza sees Verity with that captain.

Ross has gone to meet with Francis who shows how little backbone he has and how easily influenced he is. He tells Ross, “I’m in no mood to speculate. I need something I can depend on.”

Ross goes on without him. In a private room, men assemble. Ross begins, “We come here today to decide one thing: Whether to risk good gold in pursuit of copper.”

One man notes, “Welsh mines prosper and Cornwall’s on its knees.”

Yet Ross assures them, “the price of copper should rise.”

Here’s the plan. Ross will manage the mine and be head purser without salary.

Captain Henshaw will oversee workers without salary (until they turn a profit).

Renfrew will supply gear and tackle at a good price.

Pascoe’s bank is willing to draft a note of 300 pounds.

Henshaw notes it could cost the shareholders dear, but Ross adds, “and the miners dearer.”

But Ross also adds, “I’d sooner gamble on a vein of copper and the sweat of 50 men than on a turn of a card.”

The cost will be “50 guineas a piece for three months.” All the men are in.

George, of course, is behind all this. After Ross leaves, George moves in and begins quizzing Francis about Ross’ latest venture as they play cards (because gambling is such a dependable enterprise).

George advises Francis, “She cannot choose our family, but we can choose our friends.” We all know that George is a frenemy, right.

Ross sees that Francis leaving with George. He has an idea that Francis is in trouble. Ross buys Demelza a cloak which is red on the inside and a mellow green on the outside. She is quite pleased with herself. Notice that Ross is carrying the bucket that has groceries in it instead of Demelza.

Back at the estate of the other Poldarks, Elizabeth is eavesdropping as her husband and her father-in-law.

“She should be mistress of her own behavior,”  Francis defends himself.

A lady has been caught misbehaving. Elizabeth rides alone to Ross’ home and is met by Demelza. Soon enough Ross returns and asks, “Have you been offered some refreshment?”

“Your maid tried her best,” Elizabeth says.

Elizabeth doesn’t directly say what the matter is, but Ross fills in the blanks from his own hopeful heart. He loves Francis. Elizabeth loves Francis. He tell her he will follow her back straight away.

Ross has been led astray. when he meets with his relatives they tell him:  “It’s a bad business Ross, but we must make the best of it” and “Verity has greatly disappointed us.”

Her father has an easy explanation, “She’s a plain girl and that make her easy prey.” But Charles then states, “She will not leave this house until she swears never to see him again.”

Now does anyone really think that Charles would have found any suitor suitable for his maid/daughter.

Verity confronts Ross outside (notice she doesn’t confront her father…such is the control men had over women in those days). She says, “I heard what they told you, but it isn’t true.” She continues, “I’m sure. He loves me. I love him. You of all people know what that feels like.” That hits Ross hard. He had hope; it was dashed.

Ross asks,  “What can I do?”

We soon enough learn what Ross will do. He’s allowing the captain and Verity to meet at her place. The captain tells Ross, “She’s my angel of redemption.”

While romance is happening in his house, romance comes in pursuit of him. Ruth and her mother come calling. They think “farming is such an engaging hobby.” They tell Ross, “Perhaps we can show you what a woman’s touch can do to a home.”

Ross meets Francis and Charles and they aren’t happy. They feel that Ross has betrayed them. They know Verity is meeting with the captain.

Soon we learn why they think the captain is a “filthy skunk.” The rumor is that he killed his wife and “We don’t deal with wife-murderers.”

Ross says, “I take no one’s side.”

Francis decides to have a duel, with the captain because “The skunk insulted me.” Francis will botch this, of course. Wounded, he is carried by Ross up to a bed. Prudie is too afraid to help so Demelza helps Ross patch up Francis.  For a second time, Ross saves Francis’ life, but in doing so, he is first blamed by Elizabeth for what happened and then sees how much she cares about Francis, at least, as a husband who gives her her position. As a parting gesture, Elizabeth explains that she is pregnant with his child.

Ross asks Demelza if he has “half-wit” written on his forehead. He realizes that Elizabeth was using him for her own needs. That may be her kind of love.

Ross orders his men and Demelza over the mine, Wheal Leisure. He gives Demelza a chance to return to her father and family, but she tells him she’s happy to be at Nampara. Now all hope is with the mine Wheal Leisure and Ross seems to have given up on Elizabeth.

“Poldark” is available VoD on the PBS Masterpiece website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘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.

If one really wants to assign race to each emotion in “Inside Out” as Edelman feebly attempts in her portrayal of Joy, then there is “The Simpsons” argument which supports Edelman’s interpretations of white or white-ish. In “The Simpsons” episode “Goo Goo Gai Pan” the Chinese seem to be sort of white-ish, meaning they are the same color as the Simpsons. In the case of “Married to the Blob” where Kumiko Nakamura marries the Comic Book Guy, Jeff Albertson, the Japanese character is just a lighter tone of yellow than Jeff. If you check out scenes at the sushi bar, The Happy Sumo, the chefs seem to be the same yellow as the Simpsons making them white-ish, I guess.

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 major studio featuring the yellow face on its ad campaign 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. Who could be happier than those who are at the top of society?

Yet is just seems mysterious that Edelman had to assign race at all to an animated character where race was not important.

 

‘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.

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