Later On

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Archive for the ‘Movies & TV’ Category

A short history of a wrong direction the US embraced

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Heather Cox Richardson reviews some of the decisions and directions that brought the US to its current situation:

America today is caught in a plague of gun violence.

It wasn’t always this way. Americans used to own guns without engaging in daily massacres. Indeed, it always jumps out at me that the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, when members of one Chicago gang set up and killed seven members of a rival gang, was so shocking it led to legislation that prohibits automatic weapons in the U.S.

Eighty-nine years later, though, in 2018, another Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 children and wounded 17 others. In response, then-President Donald Trump called for arming teachers, and the Republican-dominated Florida legislature rejected a bill that would have limited some high-capacity guns.

Our acceptance of violence today stands in striking contrast to Americans’ horror at the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Today’s promotion of a certain kind of gun ownership has roots in the politics of the country since the Supreme Court handed down the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision, which declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Since Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted a government that actively shaped the economy, businessmen who hated government regulation tried to rally opposition to get rid of that government. But Americans of the post-World War II years actually liked regulation of the runaway capitalism they blamed for the Great Depression.

The Brown v. Board decision changed the equation. It enabled those who opposed business regulation to reach back to a racist trope from the nation’s Reconstruction years after the Civil War. They argued that the active government after World War II was not simply regulating business. More important, they said, it was using tax dollars levied on hardworking white men to promote civil rights for undeserving Black people. The troops President Dwight Eisenhower sent to Little Rock Central High School in 1957, for example, didn’t come cheap. Civil Rights, then, promoted by the newly active federal government, were virtually socialism.

This argument had sharp teeth in the 1950s, as Americans recoiled from the growing influence of the U.S.S.R., but it came originally from the Reconstruction era. Then, white supremacist southerners who were determined to stop the federal government from enforcing Black rights argued that they were upset about Black participation in society not because of race—although of course they were—but rather because poor Black voters were electing lawmakers who were using white people’s tax dollars to lay roads, for example, or build schools.

In contrast to this apparent socialism, southern Democrats after the Civil War lionized the American cowboy, whom they mythologized as a white man (in fact, a third of the cowboys were men of color) who wanted nothing of the government but to be left alone (in reality, the cattle industry depended on the government). Out there on the western plains, the mythological cowboy worked hard for a day’s pay for moving cattle to a railhead, all the while fighting off Indigenous Americans, Mexicans, and rustlers who were trying to stop him.

That same mythological cowboy appeared in the 1950s to stand against what those opposed to business regulation and civil rights saw as the creeping socialism of their era. By 1959, there were 26 Westerns on TV, and in March 1959, eight of one week’s top shows were Westerns. They showed hardworking cowboys protecting their land from evildoers. The cowboys didn’t need help from their government; they made their own law with a gun.

In 1958, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona rocketed to prominence after he accused the president from his own party, Dwight Eisenhower, of embracing “the siren song of socialism.” Goldwater had come from a wealthy background after his family cashed in on the boom of federal money flowing to Arizona dam construction, but he presented himself to the media as a cowboy, telling stories of how his family had come to Arizona when “[t]here was no federal welfare system, no federally mandated employment insurance, no federal agency to monitor the purity of the air, the food we ate, or the water we drank,” and that “[e]verything that was done, we did it ourselves.” Goldwater opposed the Brown v. Board decision and Eisenhower’s decision to use troops to desegregate Little Rock Central High School.

Increasingly, those determined to destroy the postwar government emphasized the hardworking individual under siege by a large, grasping government that redistributed wealth to the undeserving, usually people of color. A big fan of Goldwater, Ronald Reagan famously developed a cowboy image even as he repeatedly warned of the “welfare queen” who lived large on government benefits she stole.

As late as 1968, the National Rifle Association supported some forms of gun control, but that changed in the 1980s as the organization affiliated itself with Reagan’s Republican Party. In 1981, an assassin attempted to kill the president and succeeded in badly wounding him, as well as injuring the president’s press secretary, James Brady, and two others. Despite pressure to limit gun ownership, in 1986, under pressure from the NRA, the Republican Congress did the opposite: it passed the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, which erased many of the earlier controls on gun ownership, making it easier to buy, sell, and transport guns across state lines.

In 1987, Congress began to consider the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, otherwise known as the Brady Bill, to require background checks before gun purchases and to prevent certain transfer of guns across state lines. As soon as the measure was proposed, the NRA shifted into high gear to prevent its passage. The bill did not pass until 1993, under President Bill Clinton’s administration. The NRA set out to challenge the law in the courts.

While the challenges wound their way upward, the idea of individuals standing against a dangerous government became central to the Republican Party. . .

Continue reading. And do read the whole thing. It’s good to be reminded that choices have long-lasting impact.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2021 at 10:23 am

Example of a bad (micro)cultural meme: Scott-Rudinesque behavior

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Peter Marks has an interesting report in the Washington Post, and mentions in passing how a cultural meme is created and then reinforced generation by generation, because “this is how we do it.” The underlying problem is that it’s difficult to do A-B tests of memes, though some do arise.

At any rate, from his report (and read it with an eye out for memes):

. . . The story, in which several people described allegations that have circulated in the entertainment industry for years about Rudin’s bullying and rages, rocked the theater world. In one anecdote, he allegedly smashed a computer monitor on an assistant’s hand over an unsuccessful flight booking, sending the employee to the emergency room. He’s also accused of throwing objects at workers, including a stapler and a baked potato.

Rudin declined to elaborate on the statement, or on what exactly retreating from “active participation” entails. He has spoken to confidants about beginning a program of anger management or some manner of coaching. Whether his actions will in some way quell the calls for punitive action to be taken against him is unclear. Producers who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the allegations have spoken of some sanction by the Broadway League, whose members are Broadway producers and theater owners. But the league exists primarily as a trade organization and overseer of the Tony Awards with the American Theatre Wing. Every commercial Broadway production is, in essence, its own private enterprise.

“All change is theoretical,” said Olivo, in response to Rudin’s statement, “Action and time are needed before we can name it transformation. . . . Rudin is but one dragon to slay. There are more.”

Some members of the Broadway community say Rudin is just one of many abusive people — directors, choreographers, actors, business executives — whose behavior has been tolerated. His stepping back from “active participation” will probably not change the environment, they say.

“It’s a first step. Is it enough? No,” said one Broadway producer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of negative consequences. “There are people at every point in the business that have been taught that this is how you get the results you need. So the behavior gets replicated.”

“We have been taught that we have to sacrifice for our art,” this producer said about why bad behavior remains prevalent. “But you can do great work without creating a toxic environment.”

Actors’ Equity, the national labor union, called for Rudin to release his staff from any nondisclosure agreements that they may have had to sign, saying it would be “an important first step in creating truly safe and harassment-free theatrical workplaces on Broadway and beyond.”

“Since news reports emerged about Scott Rudin, we have had many private conversations with our sibling unions and the Broadway League. We have heard from hundreds of members that these allegations are inexcusable, and everyone deserves a safe workplace whether they are a union member or not,” president Kate Shindle and executive director Mary McColl said in a joint statement.

An exit by Rudin has potentially immense consequences for an industry that is short on visionary leaders. The Internet Broadway Database lists 77 plays and musicals produced by Rudin since the early 1990s. They run the gamut from . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2021 at 5:29 pm

Why Do Wes Anderson Movies Look Like That?

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The above video explores — and makes me want to rewatch — a variety of Wes Anderson films. Ted Mills wrote an interesting post in Open Culture (which includes the above video). The post includes some links to interesting references.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2021 at 11:48 am

Posted in Movies & TV, Video

40 answers to a Reddit question: ““What’s The Greatest Movie ‘Behind-The-Scenes’ Fact You Know?”

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Very entertaining for movie buffs. Here’s just one:

In Apollo 13, they filmed in NASA’s “vomit comet”, a plane that flew at high altitudes and would create parabola movements to simulate a short period of low gravity. They built the Apollo spacecraft set inside the plane and almost every scene featuring zero gravity was filmed in the plane. They flew over 500 times in the parabola. From the time that low gravity simulation would start, they would only have 23 seconds to unstrap from restraints, set up a shot, roll, and then strap back in. They completed all of these flights in 13 days. THE MOST UNDERRATED MOVIE FACT OF ALL TIME! The only movie ever to film in actual Zero Gravity.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2021 at 6:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Watching “Treadstone” and spotted a DE razor

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Season 1 Episode 8 at 34:28. I can’t identify the make and model of the razor, though the handle did seem along the lines of the RazoRock Halo handle —but not quite.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2021 at 7:22 pm

Hellzapoppin (colorized)

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Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2021 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Jazz, Movies & TV

One problem in watching TV series

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The problem exists in both dramas and comedies: many rely heavily on extremely unpleasant characters in whose company few, I think, would want to spend any time at all. Two examples: drama, Yellowstone; comedy, Doc Martin. For me, neither was watchable, and very quickly.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 March 2021 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Why Roy’s Rule — Turn it off and then back on again — so often works

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In the (wonderful) series The IT Crowd (which you can watch on Netflix), the senior IT guy Roy Trenneman (played by Chris O’Dowd) responds to any problem, “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?”

Yesterday I was downloading some new books from Standard Ebooks onto my Kindle, and when I looked at the “Downloaded” list there were two titles greyed out — not the books I had just downloaded, but two from some time ago. I did a search and found the actual downloads on the device. I could open those files and all was well, but the two ghost files remained as an irritant: I could not open them, I could not select them, and I could not delete them.

I was set to go through the minor ordeal of contacting Amazon support and working through the problem with them, when I remembered Roy. So I turned the Kindle off — really off, holding down the off switch until I got an option to Restart the device. I selected that, and the Kindle totally rebooted, and when it was done the ghost files were gone.

Why does this work so often?

A computer program — whether an app or the OS itself — has an orderly shutdown procedure for when you exit the app. However, such an orderly exit may not have occurred. There may have been a power failure or a system crash or a bug in the program that caused it to crash or some other program running through memory overwriting things and causing an abrupt system crash — a variety of things might have disrupted an orderly shutdown. Therefore software programs on start-up cannot assume that everything is in perfect order and (assuming they are have been well designed, written, and tested) will go through a housekeeping routine on startup to make sure everything is in order and to clean up anything that is not.

By turning the device off and then back on again, your force the activation of that initial housekeeping, which restores everything to what it should be (as best the software can). Thus when my Kindle was restarted, the housekeeping on startup found extraneous ghost files and removed them.

It’s a great series, BTW, and well worth watching: four seasons of six episodes each.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 March 2021 at 10:06 am

Who’s who in movie credits: A detailed analysis

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This is the most detailed explanation I’ve seen.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 February 2021 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Business, Movies & TV, Video

Vera Ellen was a great dancer

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Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2021 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Art, Movies & TV, Video

A culture war is brewing in North Korea. It shows Kim Jong Un’s deepest fear. — and a good TV series from it.

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Olivia Schieber, the senior program manager of the foreign and defense policy department at the American Enterprise Institute, writes in the Washington Post:

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did something none of his predecessors dared to do: He admitted that his country is in crisis. A grim reality may have left him little choice. The hermit kingdom is reeling from sanctions, natural disasters, famine and the covid-19 pandemic. And since life in North Korea looks likely to get even worse in the months ahead, the regime is doubling down on its efforts to prevent the flow of outside information into the country.

At the end of 2020, North Korea passed a slew of new laws to rein in what it calls “reactionary ideology and culture.” Key details of these laws, set to go into effect last month, recently emerged. They inadvertently reveal one of North Korea’s chief concerns: an influx of South Korean media. Reportedly, the new measures threaten anything from up to 15 years of hard labor for possessing South Korean books or movies to up to two years for just speaking with a South Korean accent. The laws even plan to hold parents accountable, calling for fines of roughly $111 to $222 for fathers and mothers who “failed to raise their children properly.” (One estimate puts the average monthly salary for North Koreans at about $4.) Distribution of foreign materials may warrant the worst punishment of all: death.

The regime has cause for concern. A 2019 study of 200 defectors showed that more than 90 percent had watched foreign or South Korean media before they defected. South Korean dramas pose a particular problem. Not only do they depict life in a wealthier, freer country, but also they threaten the fabric of state-sponsored culture. Even South Korean accents and slang have become more common as a result of the popularity of dramas in North Korea.

Of note is the South Korean 2019 hit rom-com, “Crash Landing on You,” a drama popular among defectors and North Koreans alike. The film partially takes place in North Korea and has been praised for its honest depictions of North Korean life. A sarcastic phrase from the drama, “You think you’re the general or something?” has reportedly become commonplace, angering North Korean authorities, who believe it is used to mock Kim (often known in the North simply as “the General”). While some criticize the drama for romanticizing life in North Korea, the regime is not too keen on the portrayals of its corrupt leadership, referring to the work as an “atrocious provocation.”

Northerners’ demand for products and information from the South appears to be growing. Some estimate as many as a quarter of North Koreans have mobile phones, many of which were illegally smuggled over the Sino-Korean border. This past October, authorities began a renewed crackdown on foreign cellphone usage by promising forgiveness if citizens and brokers “voluntarily” turned in their phones.

Before covid-19, North Koreans gained access to bootleg dramas via smuggled USBs sold in the jangmadang (private markets at times tolerated by the authorities). And South Korean media consumption has fueled demand for other illicit South Korean imports such as cosmetics, with some women using South Korean beauty products as a silent protest against the regime.

Ironically, . . .

Continue reading.

Crash Landing on You is on Netflix, and I’m watching it now (in episode 6). Episode 1 is somewhat tedious since it is focused on setting out the situation and background, but from episode 2 on, the series strikes me as quite interesting. Worth watching the first few episodes.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 10:10 pm

Sarah Silverman just wants to make things right

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In the Washington Post Geoff Edgers has an engaging profile of Sarah Silverman (including a couple of videos). It begins:

One morning not so long ago, Sarah Silverman needed some weed. So she drove to Santa Monica and pulled into a parking space outside a dispensary.

That’s when the trouble started. A man in an Escalade got out of the car and started screaming.

“What’s wrong with you? You hit my car, you b—-.”

Whoa. Silverman was sure that she hadn’t so much as smudged his bumper. But, even if she had, did this man’s response match the crime? Standing there, Silverman had a choice: shout back or try one of her social experiments. Could kindness convert this negative energy into something positive?

“I’m so sorry,” Silverman said without a tinge of sarcasm. “Show me where the scratch is? I’ll pay for it.”

That’s all it took. The man was disarmed. He told her to forget about it; life would move on.

Except that Sarah Silverman knew the story was perfect material — not necessarily comedy gold, but funny enough and with a deeper message. She told her sister, Laura, about it in a Zoom, mentioned it to her producer, Raj Desai, and then recounted it on “The Sarah Silverman Podcast” a few days later.

The interaction is about human behavior and our ability to reshape even the ugliest confrontations by trying just a bit harder. It also highlights Silverman’s special superpower, the ability to use her glow and an awwcomeonbuddy nudge to convert all sorts of nasty mojo.

She would be delivering this story onstage now, except that there’s a pandemic and, therefore, no gigs. Or she might be telling it on TV, except that Hulu canceled her “I Love You, America” series in 2019 and HBO passed on her latest pilot last year. Then again, it makes cosmic sense that this is being told on her podcast, because it’s hard to imagine Silverman’s pot-fueled parable getting space to breathe on those other platforms. The HBO bigwigs would have told her to tighten up the anecdote. The rules of standup would have required the setup to be met by a punchline.

Which is why “The Sarah Silverman Podcast,” launched by the longtime comedian a few months ago with little fanfare and a sense of resignation, may be one of the sneakiest successes of the pandemic.

“I mean, yeah, I came to it because my hands were bound,” Silverman says in a recent Zoom interview from her apartment in Los Angeles. “I couldn’t do standup and I had no place to put stuff. But now I realize this was really what I needed to do. I just can’t believe the freedom and the messiness and the looseness. It’s maybe something I didn’t realize I was missing.”

Everybody has a podcast, she’d grumble when the subject would come up in the past. “And I get it,” says director Adam McKay (“The Big Short,” “Anchorman”), a longtime friend and one of those nudging her. “You want to do a TV show. It certainly seems bigger and cooler, but that’s changing. I honestly don’t know anyone out there right now with the reach that Joe Rogan has.”

Rogan, the former “Fear Factor” host and second-tier standup before he launched “The Joe Rogan Experience” in 2009, chums around with Elon Musk and signed a $100 million deal with Spotify last year. Rogan says the podcast has 190 million downloads each month. Marc Maron reinvented himself with “WTF,” with then-President Barack Obama showing up at his garage in Los Angeles. Conan O’Brien, with his ever-shrinking late-night show, expanded with “Conan Needs a Friend” and his Team Coco company producing other podcasts. (Silverman considered an offer from O’Brien’s company, but chose Kast Media because she thought Team Coco wanted too big of a revenue share.)

Still, Silverman had other plans for 2020.

Her big project was “The Bedwetter,” a musical adaptation of her best-selling 2010 memoir. It was set to open off-Broadway in May at the Atlantic Theater Company with a cast that included Linda Lavin and Stephanie J. Block.

In early March, Silverman was in New York with playwright Joshua Harmon, who co-wrote the book, and Adam Schlesinger, the Fountains of Wayne founder and Emmy winner, who wrote the music.

Schlesinger, years earlier, had been the one who pitched the idea of a musical after reading the memoir, a freewheeling, origin story of the anxious young girl — she struggled with enuresis, or bed-wetting, until she was 16 — who became a comic star.

In mid-March, after the NBA shutdown, the Atlantic closed its doors and postponed the show. “And two or three days later, Adam texts: ‘You won’t believe this, I think I have this thing. I have a super high fever and a cough,’ ” Silverman says. “And then, April 1, he was dead. Dead.”

By then, HBO had already passed on “Silvershow.”

Over the past decade, Silverman’s penchant for shocking, potty-mouthed material has evolved to embrace more of what she calls social politics. She’s still not above discussing, in detail, her Internet porn search words. But she also addressed the Democratic National Convention. Her philosophy, onstage and off, is that not everybody is stupid, not only her views are right, and if we listen to those we disagree with instead of rolling our eyes, we might get somewhere. Imagine being as clever as John Oliver without the snark.

“I Love You, America,” which ran from 2017 to 2019, embraced that evolution. In one early segment, Silverman traveled to Louisiana to visit a family of rabid Donald Trump supporters. During the visit, she led a discussion about health insurance, and it became clear that the family, which had been mercilessly bashing Obama, was covered by “Obamacare.”

[the article includes the dinner portion of this video:

Start at 3:45 to see that portion. – LG]

“That moment was the crystallizing moment for me,” says Amy Zvi, Silverman’s longtime manager and an executive producer on the show. “Rather than say, ‘You realize that you’re wrong and I’m right,’ Sarah didn’t correct them.”

“I don’t want to make people look dumb,” Silverman says. “Those aren’t the people I care to show up. I think people can be changed, but they’re never going to be changed by feeling judged.”

“I Love You, America” lasted two seasons, earning Emmy nominations each year and allowing Silverman to boldly confront even her most uncomfortable experiences.  . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

The concluding paragraphs:

Then there was the angry Escalade man. The incident did not end when she killed him with kindness. No, Silverman insisted, “I want to make this right.”

Then she asked what he smoked.

“I like a full-bodied high,” he told her.

With that, Silverman, Emmy-winning standup, TV host and now podcaster, walked into the dispensary and acquired a spliff of Indica for her antagonist. He smiled at the olive branch, but they were already at peace. While she was inside, he had paid her parking meter.

“I haven’t shaken someone’s hand in a year, but I gave him a big handshake,” Silverman says. “And I go, ‘Look at us. We were arch enemies and now we’re best friends.’ ”

Written by LeisureGuy

4 February 2021 at 10:08 am

Relevent again: “The Big Short”

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And it’s a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting movie — and with Game Stop worth seeing again. And it’s on Netflix. Do watch. This is my third time seeing it.

Update. Just finished watching it. Wow! Is it good!

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2021 at 7:43 pm

Every Denzel Washington movie, ranked

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The list is on Vulture, and as I read through it I realized how many I had seen and — even more keenly — how many I have yet to see. Unfortunately some are not available to stream, a gross failure of streaming content. But some are, and I have added to my queue some to watch and some to rewatch.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2021 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Hayao Miyazaki | The Mind of a Master

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 January 2021 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Art, Movies & TV, Video

Quentin Tarantino’s movie-making at three budget levels

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This brief look at the technical work-a-day aspect of making movies I found fascinating. There’s more in the Open Culture post that brought it to my attention. Here’s the summary:

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2021 at 12:39 pm

Movie stars from the past dancing to current music

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Movie stars dancing to “I’m So Excited”:

And to “Uptown Funk”:

Written by LeisureGuy

15 January 2021 at 7:51 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Music, Video

TV series on Netflix that I like a lot, with viewing advice

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The Korean series Stranger, whose first two seasons are on Netflix, is excellent: well-drawn characters, complex but intelligible plot, and interesting cultural differences.

It is sub-titled in English, and for most in the US the names are unusual and difficult to remember (like, say, the Russian names in War and Peace), so I recommend in the first few episodes pausing the action to write down a character’s name when the character is introduced. This will help a lot later, when the character is mentioned in some conversation. I did this when reading War and Peace — writing down name and a brief description of who it was — and it helped immensely.

Because the plot is intricate and the dialogue sometimes swift, I made good use of the 10-second rewind and in fact I watched one episode twice. On the second viewing, everything was clear even though after the first viewing I was a bit confused.

I hope and expecct a third season will eventually become available. The second season is from 2020, so it may be a few months from now.

Some of the cultural differences are obvious — for example, the routine bowing and the extreme deference given to superiors (it must be an extremely hierarchical society). Others may be an artifact of drama, such as when a character in an office context shouts and shows overt anger. I get the idea this is done as a show of strength and to intimidate, whereas in US/Canadian culture that would be interpreted as (character) weakness demonstrating that the person is immature and lacks self control. (The same pattern of shouting and overt anger occurs in Japanese modern-day dramas as well.)

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2021 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Bob Fosse documentary

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And see also this New Yorker interview with Ann Reinking from May 2019.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2020 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Art, Movies & TV, Video

Tagged with ,

“All I Want for Christmas,” Star-Trek style

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 December 2020 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Memes, Movies & TV, Music, Video

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