I apologize for having been absent from this blog for such a long time! In summer I was gardening, then I have been writing my novel set in Depression times, and it is jarring to keep switching times from my present to the time and space of all these movies and television. But now is time to do an Oscar opinion; I am catching up with some films I missed in theater. I did better this year of actually having seen more of the Oscar nominees! That is coming, especially after the Awards ceremony displays itself in its biases and problems. In the meantime, let me cover a few things I have been watching on the smaller screen—and thanks to the competition among Netflix, Hulu, Starz, etc. some of these are Oscar nominees. The lines blur.
MANIFEST. My main and current favorite is “Manifest,” airing on the regular network of NBC, amazingly enough. “Manifest” is the story of flight 828 which disappeared for five and a half years with everyone considered dead. Then they return, passengers and crew not having aged a day and having no idea that anything at all has happened to them! Several of these people experience “callings” –psychic voices and visions telling them to do things. The government is very interested in these people because of honest reasons? Remember Star Gate? CIA spying? Or because some OTHER deep, dark force is running the show and tracking these people for their own nefarious reasons? I like the exploration of the ideas of telepathy, whether these powers can be used for good or evil, and the wonderful science fiction idea of what really happened here. We think of the Bermuda Triangle and lost planes and ships, of more recent planes that disappeared without a trace, or extra-terrestrial interference. There are subplots of relationships of what happens when the “dead” come back. These themes echo the idea of reincarnation perhaps, of people knowing each other yet again in different ways and why. In my opinion, this is excellent. I just hope they have something intelligent and acceptable in mind for a conclusion. Remember “Lost”? I followed it for a long time only to be disappointed in the conclusion of that. Please, I pray to each episode of “Manifest,” don’t disappoint me. The ratings are high so season one went from 13 episodes to 16 with renewal expected. Creator Jeff Rake and company have checked around just in case NBC drops them. You can feel Netflix lurking….
ANCIENT ALIENS. I will never stop watching this. Previously reviewed, put out by the History Channel. I see it on Hulu and we are one season behind, but these are new episodes for me and I watch the older ones again too. I recently saw an episode from season 12 or 11 that finally discuss what these aliens might want with us. Is it for our good or our enslavement? Mostly AA tries to keep it positive from what happened in the past, how the ET set up the many brilliant advanced civilizations and indeed created the human species, but this episode finally considers what if it’s for evil reasons. Check out on other talks on YouTube and books by David Icke, Linda Moulton Howe, Dr. David Jacobs, Corey Goode, Michael Tellinger and other for some darker shades of how ET knowledge is being used against us. But on the happier side, check out Steven Greer’s work and documentaries of how ET contact is a good thing and we have nothing to fear. Previously reviewed, Geer’s “Unacknowledged” is now on Netflix and YouTube hosts frequent updates from Greer’s work.
MANIAC. A Netflix original in 10 parts, complete science fiction with a sense of dark comedy, a dystopian world set in the future. This is the American version of an earlier Norwegian series. Lots of crazy fun and imagination. I laughed at the robotic dog poop scooper, but the poor thing can tip over like a bug and need human help. Broke people sell their time listening to someone yabbering advertising to them in exchange for some pocket change or a meal. The main characters (played by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill) sell themselves to a mind game experiment testing the technology and pharma combo, run by a mad scientist (Justin Theroux). He is trying to find an “app” to determine what is wrong with a patient’s mind, this method to replace real psychiatry, which in turn would thwart his even crazier mother, (Sally Field) a hip shrink well loved by the public. To me there were themes of reincarnation echoing around why these people turned up in each other’s scripts/dreams in this experiment and what issues confront people in their real reality, like the mother and son. It was fun and engaging. Creators were Cary Joji Fukunaga and Patrick Somerville.
LOOMING TOWER. A Hulu original that started Feb. 2018, based on the book of the same name by Lawrence Wright. Rolled out each week in 10 episodes, this drama covers the rising threat of Osama bin Laden. There is rivalry between the CIA and the FBI, especially members of I-49 squad in New York and the Alec Station in DC. Due to corruption and career building, there are agents who are more interested in personal gain than their jobs. Jeff Daniels and Peter Sarsgaard star among an all-star cast. It is an exciting and frightening plot as we see all sides of the terrorists plotting the crashes of 911, the Twin Towers and government targets; the FBI and the CIA are closing in and then due to petty personal conniving, fail to figure it out and prevent the attack. Very thoughtful and sad.
OUTLANDER. 4TH Season of a series produced by Starz. I only watched it this time because it was set in North Carolina and concerned historic facts I could get my mind around instead of the Scottish rebels and English lords. “Outlander” is the film production based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. Both the books and the series are a combination of fantasy as in time travel, history, romance and adventure. An English woman Claire (Caitriona Balfe) on her honeymoon in 1945, somehow goes through the mystical stone and launches herself out to 1743 into the Scottish highlands and various rebel campaigns. We have time traveling, reincarnation themes again, but mostly what I suspect drives this following is about romance. There are endless sex scenes with Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire. The research and imagination are incredible in the books and the series. The North Carolina scenery and events—tumbled in there with remnants from the Scottish clans and Old World squabbles that I only partially understood, not having been an avid follower of previous seasons—seemed accurate. I can’t engage myself in a long running saga: it’s like when a friend starts telling you about the characters and events in a soap opera and your eyes glaze over. But for folks who want to time travel, look at historical events, have some vicarious love, here you go! Developed by Ronald D. Moore and produced by Sony Pictures Television and Left Bank Pictures for Starz Network. The series began on August 9, 2014 and will probably never end because Gabaldon keeps writing news books.
CASTLE ROCK. A Hulu original. This is Season One of a psychological-horror series based on Stephen King novels and developed by J.J. Abrams, produced by Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, and distributed by Warner Brothers Television. It started July 2018. Expect total far out events coming from those two spooky guys! Season one has ten episodes, set in the fictional Maine town of Castle Rock. Bizarre events and psychological weirdness follow. This season featured Andre Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgard, Jane Levy, Sissy Spacek, and Scott Glen among many stars. Each season will dramatize another book. It has already been approved for season two, and I suspect this anthology could go on for a long time, harvesting from the wealth of King’s stories and novels.
THIS IS US. I only mention this one, offered on NBC, because it bounces you around in time with endless flashbacks and changes in point of view. It follows the Pearson family, Jack and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and their triplets Kevin, Kate and Randal. One baby died and the parents adopted Randal, an Afro-African baby left at the fire house door. There are dramas between the couple and problems with the kids—I didn’t follow that closely until Kate claimed she killed her father. Well then, how can you not watch? But how long did we wait for Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) to die after Kate said that she killed him? It could have been a whole season! Now we have Jack ghosting in and out of the past and present in the characters’ heads. This is made worse by the constant interruption of the commercials. Whether you watch on NBC or Hulu, there are a lot of commercials! Coupled with how you are already being thrown around in time, points of view, and then commercial interruption, there are times when I don’t know what is going on. There are people who follow this with religious zeal. This comes out by the week so you can’t get up continuity the way Netflix lets you marathon something. I’m waiting for the DVD to come out to knock out the commercials and it would be more conducive to getting it all straight in your mind. This is a very popular show, its cast and creators have been well awarded.
NEW AMSTERDAM. Put out by NBC, a new series based on Dr. Eric Manheimer’s book on New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, based on a true story of a doctor who declared that a hospital would truly practice medicine for the patient instead of the politics. The story of how a public hospital built on good intentions goes wrong. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) comes into his fictional hospital New Amsterdam as the new Medical Director and starts throwing his weight around in a fairly absurd way, like firing the entire cardiac department for some past crime. Yet when the emergency department needs the one single doctor in charge of the cardiac department, Dr. Floyd (Jocko Sims), he always materializes, like the loaves and fishes. Or Max shows up to pronounce his wisdom, which of course he always knows what is wrong and probably speaks the language of the patient to boot! Or the doctor in charge of the ED, Dr. Lauren Bloom (Janet Montgomery) decides to eliminate the waiting room by slapping everyone into a bed right away so they can wait there for a doctor. (Been to any ER lately? This was too funny!) Later this doctor gets caught for her over use of her Adderall, speeding like a maniac on no sleep for days at a time and the nurses catching her mistakes. Max himself gets cancer and has to experience what a patient goes through. Yet his treatment is much nicer with his colleague, the beautiful, glamorous Dr. Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman) who used to go out and do PR on television shows, making the hospital into a celebrity and fund raising. Max convinces her to actually practice medicine—just in time to treat himself, hopefully in secret—until a crisis happens and he has to tell everyone.
Although it is sort of fun to watch the medical stories, I fear this program will give people the crazy notion our hospitals will actually help you, save you, figure out what is your problem, etc. All kinds of unlikely miracles happen that I just shake my head, like no damn way! Here’s what I see coming: Max and Helen are going to hook up because Max’s wife is difficult (see early episodes, like what is her problem?) and because Helen is on the brink of freezing her eggs and she’ll no doubt see Max’s superior genes, that he should sire her baby, but no, thank god she meets a man, a doctor and we might be spared this soap-opera twist. Although the new man might have to die somehow to move the plot…..
Produced by David Schulner, Iate Dennis, Peter Horton, and Dr. Eric Manheimer himself. If the idea of this medical drama is going to be that this hospital goes to hell in a handbasket, it has a good start. I can’t, however, understand, did Dr. Manheimer write the book about his heroism, his mistakes, or about how the hospital had been ruined and he saved it? Watch with caution and remember this is a bit of fiction.
THE PATH. When will it come back? I fear never. Its ending could suffice for a resolution, but also opened up the pathway to further exploration of how a cult can become a real religion or some whacko thing like Scientology. We have seasons 1-3, maybe no more. Previously reviewed and I loved it.
SHUT EYE. Original previously review. About a fake psychic who gets hit on the head and has real visions. Involved with the Mafia and the gypsy run psychic franchise, the main character and his wife try to outsmart the “corporate” scheme by running their own scam. More vicious and violent than the Path, but I liked it anyway. Be warned against the violence. If you can’t take “Breaking Bad,” you will not be able to watch this either.