Tag Archives: entertainment

The Americans: Thoughts on the Season Finale

I am grateful that ‘The Americans’ does not appear to be going the way of Homeland, the most recent season of which seemed, as my Significant Other put it, to have been written by Barack Obama. For those of you who didn’t watch Homeland this season: first of all, congratulations; second of all, it revolved around a terror attack on New York City apparently committed by an Islamist but actually committed by rogue CIA agents who – naturally – got some help along the way from Mossad.

I am well aware that the left has won the culture wars and that the viewpoints espoused in movies, television and media are going to reflect this fact. But one grows weary. Heck, even my beloved Hawaii Five-0, a show I have long enjoyed because it generally avoids politics and simply shows great-looking cops shooting bad people, had an episode this season where an impending terror attack apparently planned by an Islamist was actually planned by right-wing extremists (somehow affiliated with the government and military, of course).

But ‘The Americans,’ thankfully, has resisted the urge to make communism seem benign and misunderstood. It’s too intelligent for any such nonsense. Oh, it contains its fair share of moral equivalencies, and its share of “no context given” comments: for example, when Elizabeth (as the show’s resident true believer, she is responsible for many silly and baseless assertions) points out that the US can’t be trusted because they are the only country to have used a nuclear weapon. Er, yes, but, you know, some context would be useful here. It wasn’t as though Harry Truman got up one morning and said, “Oh heck, I’d like to nuke someone peaceful and kind today.”

In fact, Elizabeth, with her endless yammering about “justice” and constantly using her interpretation of that word to justify terrible acts, reminds me a lot of the social justice bullies of today. You can draw a line, I believe, from her 1980s-Soviet-totalitarian-bromides to today’s fascism of the left (and make no mistake, it is fascism). And I mean, you can draw that line in real life. I refer here to those lefties who are – and who have long been — pathologically anti-Western.

Enough about such clowns – let’s get to this season of ‘The Americans.’ It has had as its theme, food – the want of the USSR, the excesses of the US. Philip, who way back in the first season was talking about defecting, makes a comment about how the endless fields of wheat in Kansas (where he and Elizabeth are on a mission) remind him of home. “Why,” he asks, “can’t we feed our own people?”

This is an excellent question. The series’ writers have constructed storylines around corruption in the USSR as the main reason for the food shortages. On a micro-scale, yes, that may have been the case. But, of course, the macro-picture, the main reason the USSR could not feed its own people, was that it did not have a free market. So far, this has not been clearly articulated in the show, but at least the writers of ‘The Americans’ have moved away from the absurd notion – hinted at early on in the season — that the United States was planning to try and starve the Soviets (or any other people). One of the best moments this season was when the Jennings realized the US was not only not trying to starve everyone, but rather, was trying to feed everyone. Anyone who knows America and American idealism would not be surprised by that. As my Significant Other said, as we watched that episode, “Twenty years in America and Philip and Elizabeth don’t know America at all.”

They really don’t. (Not to mention that it was their own government that had deliberately starved people in the past.) They will be in for quite a surprise when/if they return home. Gabriel, I think, is beginning to understand one thing about America – it has already won the Cold War. That is how I interpreted the scene where Gabriel visits the Lincoln Memorial before announcing that he has decided to leave. He knows the Soviet jig is up-ski.

Oleg has already returned home, and is getting his own share of surprises: seeing how messed up the food situation is; seeing the embedded corruption; hearing colleagues say matter-of-factly that they have to send someone to prison for ‘treason’ even though all that person did was tell the truth about something or voice a political opinion. But his biggest surprise is learning that his mother had been in a gulag after the war.

Philip has his own revelation about the gulags this season, when he discovers — from Gabriel — that his father had been a guard in one. It causes Philip to view his childhood memories differently: those boots his father brought home one night, for example, were they stolen from a prisoner?

So I tip my hat to the show’s writers and creators…but one cannot stop celebrities from being morons, can one? Alison Wright, who so magnificently gave us the tragedy of Martha, revealed herself in an interview to be not so magnificent when it comes to political/historical analysis. In this interview, she claims – referring to the execution of Nina Sergeevna Krilova on the show – that the Soviets were more ‘humane’ than we (i.e., the United States) about such things because they just snuck up beyond you and shot you in the head. Whereas, you know, we put you on death row and make you wait.

Well, yeah, but we also give you a lawyer, an appeal system that is not a joke and that doesn’t amount to a kangaroo court, and plus, we have the added bonus of actually having to prove our charges against you! Fairly certain that makes us more humane.

Gosh, maybe Martha belongs in the Soviet Union after all.

The Crown

Binge-watching ‘The Crown,‘ and I must say that it is simply impossible to overstate how truly superior a series it is. I thought people were exaggerating about it – but they were not. Everything about it is perfect. It took me a while to figure out why the actress who played Elizabeth was so familiar to me — and then I realized she is the same woman who played Anne Boleyn in ‘Wolf Hall.’ Give her all the awards, and throw a few in the direction of John Lithgow, as Sir Winston.

Extraordinary. To be watched and re-watched and re-watched.

Dubonnet

A friend of ours brought us a bottle of Dubonnet and it brought to mind a jingle from the ’70s. I went on a quest to find it and was unsuccessful but YouTube did give me another gift: a Dubonnet commercial from 1972 with pre-fame Farrah Fawcett and pre-fame Tom Selleck. What is not to love here?

Other Movies I’d Like to See Remade with a Female Cast, a la Ghostbusters

Bad Day at Black Rock

John Sturges’ brilliant 1955 Western/suspense film, dealing with themes of bigotry, mob mentality and redemption, is one of my favourites. The story of a one-armed stranger (Spencer Tracy) ready to give up on life, taking on a town of thugs and scoundrels (a mostly male cast that includes Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan and Lee Marvin) when that life is threatened, never fails to inspire. And how much more inspirational will it be with Dame Judi Dench as the one-armed stranger who unwittingly uncovers a hate crime, and Emma Stone, Angelina Jolie and Rachel McAdams among the criminals eager to keep their involvement in that hate crime hidden?

Lawrence of Arabia

I just have a feeling that David Lean’s work of pure genius, a film many would say should never be touched, would benefit immensely from some feminine mystique. All the more so as there are no female speaking roles in it, unless you count ululating. Imagine the unforgettable “we want two large glasses of lemonade” scene with Meryl Streep as the charismatic Lawrence, Keira Knightley as the boy and Catherine Deneuve as Colonel Brighton; picture Marion Cotillard uttering Anthony Quinn’s darkly humorous line, “Ah, it was written then.” Anyone who believed Lean’s classic could not be made even more classic would have to eat their arrogant words.

The Great Escape

Another great movie with no female speaking roles, but oh, the possibilities with an all-female remake: Viola Davis as Bartlett; Helen Mirren as The Forger; Megan Fox as The Scrounger; Anne Hathaway in Charles Bronson’s role as the claustrophobic Tunnel King; and the bittersweet final scene with Drew Barrymore as the cocky Hilts and Diane Kruger – a German actress who has said she doesn’t like to play Nazis – as von Luger, a Nazi about to be sent to the Eastern front, admitting that Hilts will see Berlin before she does. 

The Dirty Dozen

Who says women can’t do action flicks? The World War II story of a bunch of anti-social psychopaths – described during the film as “one religious maniac, one malignant dwarf, two near idiots and the rest I don’t even want to think about” – saved from the gallows in order that they might help the Allies kill Nazis would look so much prettier with Sandra Bullock as Jefferson, Lucy Liu as Franko, Nia Vardalos as Maggott, and Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart reprising the roles made famous by Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson. And how about the entire female Dirty Dozen reciting the rhyming chant that helps each member of the group remember their part in the mission? Worth the price of a ticket and a large container of popcorn in and of itself.

Ladri di Biciclette

If there is any worry that an all-female cast wouldn’t bring in the gentlemen, wait till audiences see Monica Bellucci and her large breasts wearing a skimpy dress and trudging sweatily and desperately through the hot streets of Rome with her adorable daughter trying to find her stolen bicycle so she can work because she’s really, really poor and it’s after the war and everyone in Italy is miserable even though they get to live in Italy. Vittorio De Sica’s masterpiece of neo-realism and human suffering never looked this voluptuous.

Hobson’s Choice

A number of people on social media — as well as in some newspaper columns — have called the U.S. election this year a “Hobson’s Choice.” It is not. A Hobson’s Choice is a take-it-or-leave-it scenario, not a situation where there are two unsavoury options. That would be “a dilemma.” I guess it could also be called a “Sophie’s Choice,” but I don’t like that expression for two reasons: 1) it brings up images of Nazis killing children, and 2) it makes me think of the book (and the movie) of the same name, both of which were tinged with anti-Semitism.

On a brighter note, here is a clip from the brilliant David Lean film, Hobson’s Choice, with Charles Laughton in the lead role. And yes, the title character is given a Hobson’s Choice at the end of the story.