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The Spy

Great series, seems to be an accurate depiction
It's really amazing that an Israeli spy could penetrate the Syrian leadership so deeply but apparently the real world Cohen did. One thing the series can't show is Cohen's versatility in Arabic, which no doubt came from his Egyptian origin.

I also really liked Yael Eitan although she plays a secondary (but still important) role as "Maya." She is a real looker. Too bad fashion restrictions of the era didn't let her show off her six-pack abs!

If I had one criticism of the film is it shows a few hairstyles that weren't common until the 1970s. I'm hard-pressed to find pictures of any man with longish hair in Israel or Syria in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Bolívar: Una lucha admirable

Appears to be historically accurate
As others have noted, the series has a telenovela aspect to it, not just with Bolivar's romances but with the romances of other key players. However, it appears to adhere to actual history. I don't know why Venezuela's idiot President Maduro dissed the series, since everyone in Venezuela reveres Bolivar and the series casts him in a favorable light. However, he does make some military decisions that would not be viewed favorably by modern standards.

If I had a criticism, it's that the military forces often appear too small. You see them getting ready to engage in battles involving many hundreds or a few thousand and sometimes there 20 or 30 troops. However, like I said, it gets most of the story right.

22 July

The main message is very subtle
I understand the many complaints about the actors speaking English rather than Norwegian. I assume the producers just thought it would reach a wider audience in English. I have no problem watching subtitles, but I don't doubt others do and I'll leave it at that.

I think the reason the film focused more on the aftermath of that horrific event than the event itself is really the hidden message of the film. They want to show this is how "civilized societies" deal with a mass murdering terrorist. In this view, I suppose the US wouldn't make the cut as civilized.

Personally, I'm a supporter of capital punishment and I think Timothy McVeigh got what he deserved for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The end of July 22 shows an alternative form of punishment (the last few seconds are the most insightful). It didn't make me change my mind but I thought it was an interesting perspective anyway.

Yellowstone: The Long Black Train
Episode 4, Season 1

Episode slump in otherwise excellent series
Besides good acting, another thing I like about this series is it seemed pretty credible. I could imagine many of these events happening in real life. However, the bar scene in this episode really strained credulity, just the way the speed and ease that conflicts occur.


Gripping but some concerns about accuracy
It has been a quarter of a century but I still remember this event well and especially the fall out after words. It's a gripping series although others have raised concerns about it's accuracy. Anyone who paid attention to this event knows that the Branch Davidians were a cult and were accused of some serious crimes such as child abuse. The FBI was accused of recklessness in their assault of the cult's compound. This series will give credence to both points of view. At times, the Branch Davidians come across as harmless and close knit and David Koresh at time seems wise and kind. However, even if the series doesn't show most serious allegations against the group, it suggests Koresh was guilty of polygamy and statutory rape, which was enough to merit the attention of the authorities.

The Long Road Home

The battle from the Inside of Sadr City
Much of the cinematic coverage of Iraq War was focused on fighting against Saddam's army and the Sunni resistance. This movie focuses on the experience of a U.S. Army unit in the midst of the Shiite area of Sadr City. As such it focuses on the Army's attempt to win "hearts and minds" but also deal with an insurgent threat.

The depictions are gritty and realistic. However, the first couple of episodes have a few glitches. One, it implies that Iraq was considered peaceful prior to the unit's arrival in April 2004, when an active insurgency had been under way since the summer of 2003. Also, members of the unit repeatedly say one the name and rank of one of their fellow soldiers over the radio, which is a big communications security "no-no." However, it does a good job depicting the contemporary military, equipment, uniforms and customs.


A homage, warts and all, to LBJ
I'll watch pretty much any Presidential movie so I was glad when this one came out. Unfortunately, thanks to mixed reviews, it won't be a big hit but I hope it doesn't discourage the genre.

The movie does a good job hewing to actual events. I read LBJ's memoirs many years ago and many of the events were depicted similarly in the movie. It isn't always kind of LBJ, showing him as two-faced and conniving, but ultimately driven to do the "right thing" especially when he became President himself (there is little discussion of the Vietnam War). Unlike some others, I wasn't bothered by the flashbacks to JFK's assassination, but if I had a criticism of the film is Harrelson just doesn't look like LBJ, especially without glasses, even with all the modifications to his appearance.

Un village français

Life under occupation
The series depicts the lives of ordinary French citizens under German occupation during WWII and the immediate aftermath. Besides doing a good job of replicating the styles and technology of the times, it hues to historical events reasonably well. Interestingly, the village depicted doesn't actually exist, perhaps the writers didn't want to cast a pall on a real city. Most importantly, the characters wrestle with the complications many of the occupied must have dealt with. How much should one cooperate with occupying authorities and how much should they resist? Much of it isn't black and white.

The Deuce

Entertaining and at times gripping
I'll watch pretty much any decent drama with a well anchored historical setting. The Deuce does this for the most part although I don't disagree with those who think real world NYC was much grittier in those days. Not clear where the series is ultimately heading but its worth finding out. If I had to say anything negative, the women playing the prostitutes are often too old, obese or ugly for the roles. I know prostitution is a rough life that can age and decay among those who engage in it, but from what I've seen at red light districts, I have a hard time seeing Maggie Gyllenhaal, Pernell Walker and Jamie Neumann as plausible. Kayla Foster, on the other hand, does look pretty typical for the business.


A snapshot at life behind the Wall
This excellent series begins in East Germany, circa 1980. The Kupfer family is made up of Stasi (State Security) employees. The father, Hans, is a senior Stasi bureaucrat. One son, Falk is a detective aspiring to rise up the ranks and the other son, Martin, is street cop. Julia Hausmann, daughter of dissident singer Dunja, works in a cosmetics shop. The two families are intertwined, sometimes in ways that seem to be a bit too coincidental, but there are very few dull moments.

The plot is captivating in itself, but I don't want to divulge spoilers. What was equally appealing for me was the backdrop, the German Democratic Republic and lives of its citizens. The people depicted don't live deprived lives, they would easily qualify as middle class in the West, but they are surrounded by a colorless Communist society. Drab high rise apartment buildings and small box like cars dot the scenery. Some, like Stasi employees, live better than others but it is largely a "classless" society the socialists claim to venerate. The characters are all devoted to socialism although they differ on the need for conformity and repression. The ways in which repression is applied are particularly interesting. Another movie that explorers similar sentiments is "The Lives of Others."


The anti-trade angle harms the film
The film does attempt to depict actual events; however, I have to wonder how much is enhanced for dramatic effect. First of all, the anti-NAFTA angle is at best disingenuous. Maquiladoras did not start with NAFTA, they had been in existence previously contrary to what the movie suggests. Secondly, the implication that there is some utopian protectionist alternative isn't born about by any evidence. Many people have come to the border area to work in the factories but their wages are generally higher than the areas they came from and lest anyone think Mexico was crime free prior to NAFTA should watch "Los Olvidados" a film about violent youths in Mexico City in 1950. Also, the notion newspapers were somehow unconcerned with the "bottom line" in the past is also a reach.

I will say the film tries to depict the gritty life that exists on the US Mexican border and certainly the murders are gruesome and the police have been ineffective at best in solving the crimes. However, the notion of some evil capitalist conspiracy seems to originate from the story writer's emotions.

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