What we watched April 2020

I never expected to have this much time to watch stories on-screen, but it’s coronavirus social isolation time in Michigan, and time is mostly available!

Giri/ Haji (Duty/Shame)
Linda’s recommendation: Watch if you like the avant garde
I really enjoyed this series. Set in Tokyo and London, it follows a detective from Tokyo searching for his brother in London, and the assorted cast of characters he meets. I especially liked how the director was unafraid to frame shots, and even film long sequences, differently. The pace was slower which I appreciated in a story like this with lots of characters and tangled storylines. And the casting of Charlie Creed-Miles as Abbott, the impatient, tattooed hoodlum is just genius.

Kingpin
Linda’s recommendation: Not my style
This is the goofiest film I have seen in years, with moments of crass and touches of genius. With this movie, one of my many movie guidelines has fallen and one still stands. “Films with Bill Murray do not appeal to me.” That remains true. “I like any film with Woody Harrelson in it.” Cannot really say this with 100% certainty now. (Also the credits have Woody Harrelson’s name misspelled?!?!)

Three Identical Strangers 
Linda’s recommendation: interesting and worth watching. 
This 90 minute documentary is carefully constructed to not reveal all its secrets right at the beginning. Looks at the question of nature versus nurture in the raising of children.

Unorthodox (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: interesting and worth watching
This 4-part series is about a woman breaking free from her orthodox Jewish community, and fleeing from Brooklyn to Berlin. The star, Shira Haas, is mesmerizing- it’s impossible to look away when she is on the screen. (The “Making of” video is also good.)

Bosch (Season 6)
Linda’s recommendation: Always
This series, on Amazon Prime, has been consistently enjoyable. I like the use of older actors in the show, and the collective experience of the ensemble really adds polish to the show. The 10 episodes of Season 6 went by very quickly.

Get Low
Linda’s Recommendation: Yes
Robert Duvall is Felix Bush as well as the executive producer on this film that was satisfying on many levels. This film is not complex, all the questions posed are answered, and it’s not very sexy; it is just one of those small films that are a treasure.

Q1 2020 What We Watched

bank of televisions

This year I thought I would start tracking what we watch, by quarter. I did not realize, in January, how truly different this first quarter of 2020 would be, from all other periods in my life. Perhaps that contributes to what may be the most eclectic collection of videos and film I’ve ever viewed in one three month timeframe (listed in order viewed).

Final Straw: Food Earth Happiness
Linda’s recommendation: See it because it matters
Inspired by the book The One Straw Revolution, this film weaves together stories from some of the world’s foremost figures in the natural farming movement. Together they give modern-day relevance to age-old ideas about food, environmentalism, and happiness. It really is both art and documentary.

Cold Case: Dag Hammarskjold
Linda’s recommendation: See it if you are bored
Weird and complicated, this investigative documentary just gets more so as it progresses.

Dead to Me (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Fun to watch
A twist in every episode in this drama series as you uncover the characters’ secrets.

Salt Acid Fat Heat
Linda’s recommendation: Watch this if you eat or cook
Terrific. Samin Nosrat’s enthusiasm for her craft is catching.

The Rise of Amazon (Frontline)
Linda’s recommendation: Good grief
Great illustration of how executives come to believe their own lies. Hard to watch if you want to keep ordering from Amazon.

All the King’s Men (1949)
Linda’s recommendation: Good but only after you read the book
Based on Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, it is impossible to capture the nuance and complexity of the book.

Honeyland
Linda’s recommendation: Must See
Previously reviewed on February 19th on this blog. Terrific, touching, meaningful.  I loved this film.

Little Women (2019)
Linda’s recommendation: I wish I had the time back
Everyone loved this but me. Boring, just like every other version ever made of this story.

The Highwaymen (2019)
Linda’s recommendation: If you like buddy films, this is terrific
About the relationship between two former Texas Rangers as they attempt to apprehend Bonnie and Clyde in the 1930s. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson play Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, in a film that deepens as you watch it.

Helvetica
Linda’s recommendation: Watch if you love typeface
A documentary that is an ode to the font type that is Helvetica, mostly by advertising types. It was good but not great. If you want some thing about fonts in general this is not your film.

Tiger King (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation:   No!
This is Netflix’s contribution to the end of civilization. A peek at a world you didn’t know existed, don’t want to be part of, and hope ends soon – inhabited by some of the most confused and sad characters ever on screen.  Let me also just also note: there are only 4,000 tigers in the wild, while the U.S. has another 5,000 locked in cages, many in “private” zoos.

Ford v Ferrari
Linda’s recommendation: Predictable, but enjoyable
When a movie is based on a true story, I guess that means you cannot say it was formulaic, but that is how this one felt. The sound quality was poor – spoken words were mumbled, the engines were roaring. Finally, I just didn’t feel that the relationship between Carroll Shelby and Ken Davis was flushed out very well in the 2.5 hours it took to tell this tale.

Film Review: Honeyland

Nominated for an Academy Award in two categories (Documentary and International Film) in early 2020, this film about Macedonia’s “last beekeeper” is heartbreaking and memorable. You will not soon forget Hatidze Muratova, the star of this story on so many levels. Trailer here.

My Experience with YouTube

I really value all I have learned on YouTube over the past few years. I find it to be my “university at home” and am always surprised when people tell me they don’t know anything about it. Beyond the big name entertainment and actual university classes (from institutions like MIT and Yale) I follow probably a dozen subjects on this platform, embodied in the video producers listed below. Check them out if you are interested in any of these topics: 

  1. Food, including what and when to eat, what to avoid, how to shop, how to cook: FlavCity with Bobby Parrish, Serious Eats, NutritionFacts.org, The Dr. Gundry Podcast
  2. Optimizing general health, including sleep, stress, and supplements: Dr. Eric Berg DC, 2 Fit Docs, Bulletproof Radio, Silicon Valley Health Institute (also, the medical professionals I follow are here)
  3. Movement and exercise: Bob & Brad, DailyDosePD, SmartXPD, Mike Chang, Invigorate Physical Therapy 
  4. Stuff to think about: Anand Giridharadas, BookTV, Big Think, Intelligence Squared, Talks at Google
  5. Habits and intention: Matt D’Avella, Break the Twitch, The Daily Stoic, Tim Ferriss 
  6. Funny and interesting to me: WheezyWaiter, the Yarn Therapists, Sunflower Farm Creamery (the goats!), My Self Reliance with Shawn James (off grid living in rural Ontario), Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
  7. Great interviews: 92nd Street Y, Kevin Nealon (interviews while hiking in the Hollywood Hills), Rich Roll, The Commonwealth Club
  8. News and explaining the crazy: VOX, Democracy Now!, The Common Good with Robert Reich
  9. Music: NPR Music (Tiny Desk Concert), Playing for Change
  10. Local: Groundwork, Here:Say Storytelling, Traverse Area Community Media, Traverse City Film Fetival, Traverse City International Affairs Forum
  11. Home building and interior design: Apartment Therapy, Levi Kelly, House & Home, Kirsten Dirksen, Grand Designs
  12. And Weather, because, you know, I have six apps and three television sources for this topic, but this guy is really good, and my appetite for this information knows no limits! Direct Weather

What’s your story?

I love this video of Michele Cushatt and Michael Hyatt talking about the stories we tell ourselves and how these stories either empower or constrain us.

What is the story I am telling myself about my situation? How do I feel, and behave, when I tell myself this story? If I stopped telling myself this particular story, over and over, what else might I see, hear, or experience?