My new page for 2021 and beyond that will list my Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and TV recommendations/reviews.
April 9, 2021: TV DOCUMENTARY RECOMMENDATION: HEMINGWAY (2021)
I recommend you see this three part documentary film playing on PBS. if you a writer, alcoholic, suicidal, contradictory, or any combination I just listed. Ernest Hemingway is about as influential on writers as is Edgar Allan Poe. They were both alcoholics but one was able to survive as a writer while alive while the other hardly survived at all. Both had trouble with family and both had friends that turned into enemies. I enjoyed watching every bit of this documentary film about Hemingway that begins with his childhood and ends with him taking his life by a gun to his head. There is such a thing about the tortured writer or artist. He was definitely one of them although he allowed many of his personal demons to control him and let his impulses do whatever they felt like doing. He had little sense of delaying gratification, but how frustrating it must be to have a declining physical and mental health getting in the way of what you love to do. I’m pretty confident I won’t go the same route as Hemingway. I don’t drink and I don’t have an inflated ego as he did and yet, I am fascinated and interested in sexual and gender roles as he was. I haven’t read too many of his books, but I plan on reading more. In the short span of time he lived, he wrote quite a bit of novels, novellas, and short stories. On the flip side, Oscar Wilde, Franz Kafka, Zora Neale Hurston, and John Kennedy Toole gained the recognition they deserved after their deaths (wrong on all levels). It goes to show a person should write for the love of it and everything else comes second, third, and on and on.
I rate Hemingway Four Fingers and One Thumb at 100%
March 29, 2021: TV Review: American Horror Story/Seasons 1-9 so far
I recently finished all of the seasons, so far, in American Horror Story. Thanks for the viewers, the show will continue to the 13th season. The 10th season includes a new cast member of Macaulay Culkin (I can’t wait to see him) and Kaia Gerber (I’ll have to see how she does). The creators are bringing back Kathy Bates and Sarah Paulson as they were missing from season nine. The 10th season also has Leslie Grossman, Billie Lourd, Evan Peters, Adina Porter, Lily Rabe, Angelica Ross, and Finn Wittrock. What is the 10th season about? It deals with the environment dealing with the sea and sand. It’s aptly called “Double Feature.” I preferred certain seasons over others although I noticed in later seasons a kind of throw everything in the mix including the kitchen sink with leaky pipes and foul-smelling garbage disposal. I think the flashbacks are necessary in some of the episodes, but it appears the writers and creators have used it a little too liberally. You don’t need to give me a reason for everything that happened. Leaving pockets of mystery is a good thing. In addition to a short synopsis of each season, I will also put the seasons in order of best to least liked. Season 1 Murder House takes place in present time of 2011. The plot centers around the Harmon family making a new start in Los Angeles. Ben and Vivien and their daughter make acquaintances with peculiar neighbors and roaming ghosts, all while trying to reunite their family after tragedy. Season 2 Asylum takes place in 1964 and filmed in 2012-2013. The plot centers around Briarcliff Manor in Massachusetts. This place houses the criminally insane where religious beliefs and scientific experiments are therapeutic treatments. Season 3 Coven takes place in present time of 2013. The plot centers around the descendants of the Salem witch trials. When a new member arrives at an all-girls boarding school in New Orleans, the headmistress finds keeping the young witches and her mother all on one page difficult. Season 4 Freak Show takes place in 1952 and was filmed in 2014-2015. The plot centers around a freak show in Jupiter, Florida. The leader tries to have a revival of sorts. She wants the fame and recognition she once had back in the day, but the townspeople have negative views of the freaks and only want to destroy them. Season 5 Hotel takes place in present time of 2015. The plot centers around Hotel Cortez in Los Angeles. Those who take residence there are at odds with those who check in and unfortunately never check back out. It doesn’t help that a serial killer is leaving victims for everyone to see. Season 6 Roanake takes place in the present time of 2016. The plot centers around a reenactment of a crime in the Roanoke Colony in North Carolina and then a reality show involving the actors and real-life counterparts. Season 7 Cult takes place in the present time of 2017. The plot centers around citizens living in the small town of Brookfield, Michigan after the results of the 2017 election is announced. There is a clear distinction among the Trump, Clinton, and Stein followers. Reality becomes a twisted knot and distrust becomes synonymous to survival. Season 8 Apocalypse takes place in the present time of 2018. The plot centers around a group of people living in a fallout shelter. It is one shelter among many for those rich enough to afford it. The purpose of living there is uncovered one flashback at a time where the power struggle becomes all too real between good and evil. Season 9 1984 takes place in 1984 and filmed in 2019. The plot centers around Camp Redwood reopening after years of remaining closed. The head counselor demands strict adherence do the rules. Everything is going well until one-by-one, the newly signed on counselors realize their lives are in danger and everyone has something to hide. The order of best to least liked seasons and the reasons why. 1. Freak Show because I have a fascination with circus life and it’s a time where there was so much contradiction. Circus owners made money on the display of human oddities and animal tricks. Families that went to watch them perform had no idea or ignored the mistreatment of performance artists and animals. I really liked the Twisty character for some reason. 2. Cult because the season was nothing what I thought it would be. It turned out to the one of the more cohesive storylines that didn’t stray too much. It wasn’t over the top and while it had flashbacks, they didn’t go out of their way to overstate information. There were more twists and turns in the main story compared to the rest. 3. Hotel because there’s been a reawakening of sorts with serial killers. There’s going to be another Jeffrey Dahmer focused show/movie. The play between alive and dead is done well, and the flashbacks were definitely necessary in this season. It also appealed to me as vampires always brings any story alive if done the right way. 4. Asylum because any sanitarium is not only creepy, but the level of cruelty powerful people dispenses on those with lesser resources. It’s all in the name of religion and is about as corrupt as it gets. 5. 1984 because even though I was a child at the time, I still remember the terrible fashion and hairstyles of the 1980s. This season only solidified the overall bad culture and gave me insight into the true horror young adults went through. The story would have been even better had it not strayed in the end. The first half was great, but the second half was less cohesive in its story. 6. Apocalypse because of the historical elements and representations of good and evil. As with season 5, this one started out with great promise. I was willing to finish it until the end, but it took such an abrupt turn around the corner, that it lost its momentum. The devil with horns can take many forms. There was too much explanation and too many flashbacks. I thought the end was weak. I hope the writers’ refrain from incorporating the witches in season 10. 7. Coven because while it kept my attention, there were parts that were disjointed. It’s been a while since I’ve watched this season. From what I remember, it was a little too high schoolish for me. Nothing really stood out enough to call it one of my top five seasons. 8. Roanoke because it took me two tries to finish the season. I liked parts of it but others I didn’t like. I wasn’t too keen on the whole reality show part of it until it picked up steam. It was an overall okay viewing experience. 9. Murder House because it’s also been a long time since I’ve watched this season. I guess from a realistic standpoint of family squabbles after a tragedy was achieved. I remember the Rubber Man running around at night. I’m wanting to re-watch this season because I’ve forgotten some vital parts. I do like how it ties into season 6.
I rate American Horror Story (all seasons) FOUR FINGERS at 85%.
March 24, 2021: TV Series Recommendation: Lincoln: Divided We Stand (2021)
This six part series started on February 21st and ended on March 21st this year. It begins with Abraham Lincoln as a child and ends with his untimely assassination and the possibilities of a smoother Reconstruction period had he served a second term. This documentary highlights the myths, contradictions, tragedies, and evolution of Lincoln as President of the United States. He never would’ve become president if the Democratic party had been more organized. He never would’ve been president if he had been a mediocre speaker and not able to be politically astute. The legacy of Lincoln is a combination of truth and fiction. The reality of living in a country where the great American experiment is still occurring speaks for itself. Lincoln: Divided We Stand is more than one person trying to hold the Union together. Not everything was done out of the goodness of Lincoln’s heart. He still had a country to run and he still had a war he wanted to win. His own quest for greatness and making a dent into American history came at a cost to family and friends. The life of Mary Todd Lincoln after her husband died was tragic, but so was the state of the country after the war. It’s easy to adopt a mentality of that was then and this is now. I believe parts of America is still dealing with the struggles people faced in the 1800s. Some may disagree but it’s clear the southern states have a higher rate of poverty than any other region in the U.S. To make long lasting changes on a wide scale, it takes more than one person and sometimes more than one effort, but striving for a more perfect union has never stopped.
Lincoln: Divided We Stand gets a rating of Four Fingers and One Thumb at 95%.
March 13,2021: Documentary Recommendation: Made You Look (2020)
What does Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko have in common besides being abstract expressionist painters? Their paintings were all bought by the Knoedler gallery in New York by Ann Freedman and sold for millions of dollars. The only problem was they were fake paintings that led to the discovery of the team of Glafira Rosales as art dealer and Pei-Shen Qian as the painter. It eventually leads to a trial where the major players come into the spotlight including Michael Hammer, Domenico De Sole, José Carlos Bergantiños Díaz, Patty Cohen, Jack Flam, etc., but not everyone is equally to blame in the court system and in the art world. Most everyone was duped by these paintings including family members of the famous painters. Made You Look is directed by Barry Avrich and is one hour and 29 minutes running time. It’s engaging down to the last fake brushstroke and as this documentary shows it takes a special kind of art collector to debate with others how to hang a fake abstract expressionist painting. You can’t make this stuff up even if you tried.
Rating of Made You Look: Four Fingers and One Thumb at 100%
February 16, 2021: Amazon Recommendation: The Great Commanders (2003)
The Great Commanders is a Magellan production from 2003. It includes six military leaders of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Horatio Nelson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ulysses S. Grant, and Georgi Zhukov. It is directed by Phil Grabsky and while some of the graphic reconstructions are simplified, the content is not. Every leader in battle has to innovate and inspire in order to win and in some cases be reckless and exploitative. Whatever their military skills and insights, often the traits that make people great leaders leads to their downfall which is discussed in the series. Not all of the leaders discussed succumbed to this, but all of them were responsible for their actions whether in accolades or punishment. It is evident these great leaders influenced every future leader that came after them.
I give Great Commanders THREE FINGERS of GOOD at 80%.
February 13, 2021: Netflix Docuseries: Nightstalker (2021)
There are some spoilers in this review!
Richard Ramirez Case 101
Richard Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas in 1960 and influenced by his family. He was often surrounded by violence through stories or as a first hand witness with his cousin. Ramirez dropped out of high school in ninth grade and moved to California when he was 22. There he started killing in 1984 in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas until he was caught in 1985. As local police departments were searching for the Night Stalker, given to him by the news media, he continued to outsmart them. There clearly was a serial killer roaming the streets of California. When he was finally caught and charged with murders, attempted murders, sexual assaults, and burglaries in 1989, Ramirez was sentenced to death. While none of this will be too much of a surprise for those who know about the case, this docuseries is excellent in that it also involves the love/hate relationship between media and police as well as the victims’ families. It is rated TV-MA, has four episodes, and is three hours and nine minutes long.
A Stab in the Dark
The good thing about this case is the general human population, the common person, if you will. Most murders and major crimes go unsolved. The percentage of those solved and convicted is pretty small. No wonder why people should rely on themselves first to protect themselves (within reason). When I lived in LA, it took the police two hours to arrive to the apartment for a non violent offense. It took a long time. Now when this guy waving around a machete and threatening people in the apartment complex, they were there in a hurry. It depends on the situation. I bring this up because even the best, brightest, and dedicated police detectives have huge obstacles to overcome. I have no doubt Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno did their best to capture the Night Stalker and yet it took them months to find out his name. Others who met Richard Ramirez in passing comment on his odd behaviors including the police once he was in custody. This includes his trial which he disgustingly played to the camera. I will never understand the appeal of being attracted to a serial killer and to be seen as charming where his followers feel sorry for him. I suppose it’s another type of brainwashing that occurs in society.
Overall View of Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer
It isn’t hard for me to watch this kind of stuff. I will warn you there are some graphic scenes in this docuseries but the cat and mouse game of cop and killer is about as old as peanut butter and jelly. It’s something people find interesting. Los Angeles in the 1980s was a different time than it is today and thankfully his terror on society came to an end in 1985. He had been on death row over 20 years before he died in 2013 at the age of 53. He did not die soon enough for his victims and their families. They were the ones to suffer the most. If anything is learned from Richard Ramirez’s crime spree, it is that sometimes people are influenced to do very bad things and sometimes people are pure evil and not much else.
I rate Night Stalker Four Fingers and One Thumb at PERFECT at 100%.
February 13, 2021: Netflix Recommendation: History of Swear Words (2021)
There’s not much to say about this six episode TV show about swearing. It talks about the history of swearing in culture, entertainment, and in our personal lives. The swear words included are those that adults teach their children is not okay to say. Nicolas Cage is the host where you can see his overacting skills at its finest. There is other commentary by Sarah Silverman, London Hughes, Baron Vaughn, Patti Harrison, and more. There is expert, critic, and author commentary by Benjamin K. Bergen, Anne H. Charity Hudley, Mirelle Miller-Young, Elvis Mitchell, Melissa Mohr, and Kory Stamper. It’s informative and funny at the same time. You find out who swears the most among Hollywood and if you want to find out, you’re going to have to watch it yourself.
I rate History of Swear Words Three Fingers of GOOD at 80%.
January 2, 2021: NETFLIX MOCUMENTARY RECOMMENDATION: DEATH TO 2020 (2020)
After watching Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen get hammered on CNN, this seemed like the fitting end to 2020 on January 1st, 2021. One can’t get enough of 2020, right? The answer is yes you can. However, if you want to laugh at this mockumentary Death to 2020 and realize how old Hugh Grant is now (he’s 60), then this Netflix production is for you. It’s directed by Al Campbell and Alice Mathias. I don’t think I laughed so hard in some parts since the last mockumentary I watched twenty years ago called Best in Show. It stars Samuel L. Jackson, Lisa Kudrow, Kumail Nanjiani, Tracey Ullman, Samson Kayo, Leslie Jones, Diane Morgan, Cristin Milloti, Joe Keery, Laurence Fishburne, Angelo Irving, and move. It is rated TV-MA and is one hour and 10 minutes long. Critic reviews didn’t like it but regular viewers rated it similar to mine. The bottom line is it poked at the dumpster fire 2020 really was and the average person liked it enough to watch it as did I.
I rate Death to 2020 Three Fingers of GOOD at 80%.