Sunday Night Media Open Thread: Non-Primaries Edition

Enough today about the Democratic primary. It's not like there's one totally desirable candidate we are all jumping up and down for.

In the TV department, here's what I've watched lately and can recommend:

"The Last Thing He Wanted", a film based on the book by my most favorite author, Joan Didion. It stars Anne Hathaway, William DaFoe, Ben Affleck and Rosie Perez. Hathaway plays a liberal journalist in the mid 1980's whose father, an arms smuggler to Central America (Nicaragua, Salavador, etc) cons her into making a trip on her own. Vague on details, she is supposed to collect $1 million for what he insists will be his last ever "deal".

I had read some reviews that said it was so fast-paced that at times it was hard to keep track of the plot. So before watching, I re-read the first three chapters of the book to remind myself what it was about (While I first read "Play it As it Lays" in 1971 and have probably re-read it every year or two since then and can probably recite large sections of it, this book I barely remembered. The Denver Public library has it instantly available to download as an E-book which I did, and then watched the movie. [More...]

So I didn't get that confused, but I'll agree there are a few scenes that seem like they skipped over something and as a result, it's not easy to tell some of the CIA guys who ran drugs and guns for the Contras from the state department characters who seemed to play both sides, or figuring out which side the Salvadoran and Nicaraguan characters were on (a few were with the Sandinistas but it seemed like some of them also were hired killers for the CIA). On the other hand, maybe that's the point: all the players were back-stabbers who could switch sides at the drop of a dime according to whatever was in their best interest at the moment.

Anyway, the film has a bit of a surprise ending and the cast was good (Affleck was a bit wooden, but he's never struck me as Mr. Personality.) The only real criticism I have is the constant smoking by everyone -- it was light a second cigarette as you put the first one out, from the first scene to the last. Yes, that's how it was in the 80's but I doubt many people who used to smoke like chimneys and quit enjoy being constantly bombarded with it as they are in this film. I wonder how many people will relapse after seeing this movie.?

As for Joan Didion, the writer of the book on which the film is based, I can’t recommend her highly enough. Here’s an article I found today: How to write like Joan Didion, that gives you an idea of how unique her style of writing is.

Moving on: Even though I intensely disliked "Narcos" seasons 1 to 3, I found myself watching the latest version on Netflix. Still the annoying voice-over of a DEA agent character, but at least they didn't claim he was based on a specific agent in real life. And happily, the dead agent Kiki Camarena didn't dominate the season (he was of course a topic in the beginning episodes, because after all, this is not a series about "Narcos" as in drug traffickers, but about "narcs" as in law enforcement). What made it really tolerable was knowing early on the DEA was going to get trounced and lose by the end of the series. Plus, so many agents die because they fell for a ruse by the traffickers, no one should feel sorry for them. And watching the high level administration figure for George HW Bush castigate the main task force agent responsible for the doomed mission is rewarding.

This season of Narcos also featured an older real life Narco named Pablo Acosta and his real-life Texas heiress girlfriend Mimi (wonderfully played by the real-life daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick). The real Mimi is the niece of the late TX senator John Tower.

One of the main characters this season(who appeared a little last season ) was real life drug lord the late Amado Carrillo-Fuentes, aka Lord of the Skies. While the actor playing Amado does a very good job, the show doesn't give much background to his story. He just can't compare to Rafael Amaya who plays the fictionalized version of him (using the moniker Aurelio Casillas) in the Caracol/Telemundo series Senor de los Cielos.

Which leads me to music I'm watching and listening to these days: BTS, the uber popular boy band from South Korea has a new album out called Map of the Soul 7. Last week they were on the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon for a full hour, and in the last segment, they shut the week before to film a short performance.

The next night James Corden aired his BTS carpool karaoke . I've already watched it 3 times.

Kim Nam-joon aka RM, the group's leader speaks perfect English, while the others not so much. At one point James asked RM how he learned English and he said when he was in high school, his mother bought him a DVD set of every episode of Friends. He watched each episode three times: once with Korean subtitles, once with English subtitles and once with no subtitles. (I wish that was all it took for me to learn Spanish. I'd be so fluent by now from having watched every episode of so many Colombian and Mexican Narcodramas I should be able pass an interpreter's test. But, I can only read Spanish. My accent is so American and my verb conjugation is so poor that my Spanish-speaking clients almost cringe when I try to speak it.

Also very good on James Corden last week: "Spill Your Guts" and a new carpool karaoke with Justin Bieber. You don't have to be a Bieber fan (although I am one) to thoroughly enjoy both.

James Corden still gets my vote for my favorite TV entertainer. I have never watched an episode of the Late Late Show that hasn't left me in a better mood at the end of the show than I was in at the beginning.

More good TV: Project Runway Season 19 with Karlie Kloss in Heidi Klum's old role. She seems very down to earth (and very, very tall) and she is a Democrat, unlike her brother-in-law Jared. I also recently watched and liked last year's Making a Model with Yolanda Hadid , now on Hulu. Yolanda is the mother of uber-models Bella Hadid and Gigi Hadid and is a former supermodel herself. I read she was also on RHOBH but I have never seen that show.

Also in the fun to watch department: the Great British Baking Show on Netflix (but only the last three seasons with Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig. (Catch these seasons now because Sandi won’t be returning next season. I didn't care for the hosts of the earlier seasons. It's really an odd show that takes some getting used to. During the start of each new season, I question the casting because the contestants seem so awkward. But by the third episode or so, I've become invested in all of them.

I should also mention I finally saw Parasite a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it, on so many levels. If you haven't seen it, you should.

Next topic: I have now tested every streaming device from Apple TV 4k to Chromecast 4k, Amazon Fire TV 4k and Roku 4k. To me, it's not even close. Roku 4k wins hands down (reasons in a later post if anyone is interested.) Apple TV 4k is the biggest disappointment because it has an impossible remote control with a trackpad forcing you to slide from right to left and up and down and I always either swipe past what I'm aiming for or not far enough. Why they did away with a button to go back and forward is beyond me. Also, almost nothing is free. And I find it to be the opposite of intuitive -- listings are by service providers rather than categories.

As for streaming services: If Netflix let me see choose from all of their programs instead of showing me what it thinks I might like according to some algorithm that never gets it right, and didn't have autoplay as you scroll, it would get higher marks. AT&T Now and Hulu (the latter without commercials) win my votes for streaming. (AT&T Now is the former Direct TV Now and comes with a DVR in the cloud so you can record stuff, watch it later, and fast forward past commercials. Anyone with an AT&T phone can get it. Amazon Prime is nicely laid out but I almost never find anything to watch. Their international offerings are far too few.

I also hooked up indoor antennas to my TV's and get more than 50 channels on each. The picture is crystal clear HD, since it's not filtered through a cable service like Comcast which I read somewhere can regulate the output to accommodate more users. There's also no flickering or uneven volume as there sometimes is with cable and TV over the internet. Also, subtitles through your TV via antenna are much better than what you get with Comcast, You Tube or AT&T. Live network television offers a choice of languages for captions, while streaming devices and Comcast usually limit captions to the language they were broadcast in if you try and watch them after they have aired on Demand.

Lastly, let's go to books. If you are looking for one that grabs you on page 1 and you don't want to put down, try American Dirt. It's not Shantarum or Joan Didion, but it is compelling m-- and an Oprah book club selection. It's about the cartel killing a journalist and his entire extended family in their back yard during a family celebration (except for his wife and 8 year old son who had gone inside to use the bathroom and then hid when they heard the shots). The wife and son run away and join caravan of immigrants to get to the U.S. It is No. 2 on the NY Times Best Seller list this week and even the most proper ladies at my nail salon, who I can't picture reading a book about drugs or cartels, just rave about it. (I'm still on chapter one but so far, so good).

Update: I hope this post doesn't read like a sales pitch, it's not. I have not had an affiliate account with Amazon or anyone else for years nor have their been any ads for probably a decade. The post is really just about what I've been watching, listening to and reading, and which devices and services I find most intuitive and easy to use. The reason it's so long is that I've started and stopped it for months now, and I just have a lot to say. (Donations of course are always welcome and much appreciated, even though I stopped asking for them a few years ago. Hardly anyone responds any more).

I have a lot more to say on these topics but this is already much longer than it should be. I don't even know if anyone is interested in these media posts (If you are, feel free to say so in comments or just write about your own media habits -- I always like to know what TL readers are interested in.

Ok, enough. Back to TalkLeft's regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

< Biden's Sliver of a Path Forward | Sunday Night Open Thread (All Topics) >
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    Interesting interview with Anthony Mackie (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by McBain on Sun Mar 01, 2020 at 06:11:05 PM EST
    About current state of Hollywood
    The evolution of the superhero has meant the death of the movie star and that's the fear now because you're now making movies for 16 year olds and China.

    He talks about how our favorite films from years ago wouldn't get made today.  Also talks about how watching a movie at home is often better than going to the theater.

    When I go to a theater it's usually to please my significant other.  For me, too many things can go wrong there... people talking, glowing phone screens, can't control the volume.

    I have a relatively small TV (40 inch) but I have and old but reliable projector, a home made screen and a basic sound bar.  If a film is 16:9 aspect ration I'll sometimes use the TV but anything 235:1 needs to be projected.  

    I agree (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Zorba on Mon Mar 02, 2020 at 01:14:52 PM EST
    We very seldom go to the theater to watch movies.  We have a nice sized TV, Netflix and other services.  It's not that big a deal to wait until the movies are out on those services. We don't care if we have to wait a bit until that happens.
    We have a comfortable couch, all the snacks that we want, wine, beer, or mixed drinks available.  

    Tzatziki! (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Zorba on Mon Mar 02, 2020 at 01:18:45 PM EST
    Made tzatziki sauce and hummus.  Making Greek meatballs to serve on pita bread with either of those, plus the usual lettuce, tomato, onions, feta.  Plus sautéed peppers and sliced kalamata olives to add to it.

    Penultimate OUTSIDER tonight (none / 0) (#1)
    by CaptHowdy on Sun Mar 01, 2020 at 05:06:24 PM EST
    When it's over WESTWORLD season 3 starts.  
    With Jessy Pinkman.

    Tonight on AMC new anthology series DISPATCHES FROM ELSEWHERE

    I know some others are watching (none / 0) (#2)
    by CaptHowdy on Sun Mar 01, 2020 at 05:18:32 PM EST

    About last week.  So amazing with the sound of the "thing" you don't really see it you only hear it and the sound is awful.  
    And you see the reaction of the guy to the sound.   And presumably the visual

    At one point you see it in a blurry background and it looks like a man but it's still making those incredibly awful sounds.

    So cool.

    There will be Emmys.


    I hope so (none / 0) (#6)
    by Yman on Sun Mar 01, 2020 at 09:29:53 PM EST
    There will be Emmys.

    It's a great show.  My expectations were low when I heard it was based on a Stephen King novel.  Not because I don't like him (I do), but because they always seem to butcher his stories.  Trying to get my daughter to watch it, now.


    It's being called (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Mar 02, 2020 at 08:00:25 AM EST
    The best adaptation maybe ever.
    But if you like it you should try Mr Mercedes.   Currently on Audience soon streaming.  Holly is a character in that too.

    They do much better on his dramatic stories than his horror.
    One greatly under appreciated movie and book is Dolores Claiborne

    There are some others coming that I think will be good.

    The new Stand on CBS( I think) sounds amazing.  It really needs to be remade.  

    Castle Rock on Hulu is excellent tho it's not direct adaptation


    What a great finale (none / 0) (#25)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 02:25:56 PM EST
    It did a funny thing
    King fans will mostly agree, and he has talked about it more than once, he doesn't always stick the landing.  He has a history of great stories with crappy endings.  The Stand come to mind.  One of his best and one of his dumbest endings.  I read he is rewriting it for the coming CBS streaming series.
    Anyway, if memory serves, the ending to The Outsider, book version, was bad.  Even by king standards.
    This ending was close to perfect.  
    After all the critics saying the series was becoming one of the best King adaptations ever of one of his least memorable books they even improved the ending.
    He has had a lot so say about the changes they made.  All positive.

    Also they totally teased more seasons.  Which is great.

    Just gotta note the soundtrack was outstanding.  More so last night but all season.  


    I was deterred (none / 0) (#3)
    by MKS on Sun Mar 01, 2020 at 05:31:41 PM EST
    from watching The Last Thing He Wanted by the reviews.  I will try it now.

    Can't stand the Netflix autoplay when scrolling (none / 0) (#4)
    by McBain on Sun Mar 01, 2020 at 05:34:51 PM EST
    either.  Very annoying.  Amazon and Starz have a much too quick next episode autoplay.  In general, just about every service butchers the ending credits (maybe not HBO?)  

    The credits can be an important part of a show. When they get reduced to a small box while options for what to watch next dominate the screen, it's difficult to focus on the music or sometimes the complete silence the film/show creators used for final emphasis. I also, sometimes, like to see who was in the cast.  Please let me know if this is a setting I can change.

    One thing I like about Netflix is their forward/rewind is much better than Amazon.

    I'm interested to hear Jeralyn's 4K post.  I have an older Roku and TV so 4K isn't an option yet but if I ever get around to fixing up the living room, I might splurge.    

    War of the Worlds (none / 0) (#8)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Mar 02, 2020 at 10:36:55 AM EST
    On EPIX

    I really wanted to like this but I don't so far.  It's very French.  It's more like Monty Pythons War of the Worlds.

    Predictable, laugh out loud dialogue cheesy effects.

    Oh well,  as Bernie said, "you can't win them all"

    Dispatches From Elsewhere on AMC looks very good.

    Lawrence of Arabia (none / 0) (#9)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Mar 02, 2020 at 10:50:28 AM EST
    Is on TMC right now.  I'm watching it and listening to Capt Beefheart.

    You should (none / 0) (#11)
    by KeysDan on Mon Mar 02, 2020 at 01:00:46 PM EST
    Not watch this movie,  Directed by Sir David Lean and won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  Trump does not like these films getting American Awards, although being co-produced might be OK.  

    I agree with you on (none / 0) (#10)
    by Chuck0 on Mon Mar 02, 2020 at 11:08:51 AM EST
    "The Last Thing He Wanted." I found the timeline confusing at times. And hard to follow.

    New Bond Movie (none / 0) (#14)
    by ragebot on Mon Mar 02, 2020 at 01:19:52 PM EST
    may have its release delayed due to coronavirus.

    Lots of talking heads saying watching movies in theaters is taking a hit due to fear of spreading it.

    Anyone watching "The Hunters" on Amazon? (none / 0) (#15)
    by McBain on Tue Mar 03, 2020 at 05:58:44 PM EST
    Two episodes in, I'm not sure what to make.  It's well done but the tone doesn't seem appropriate for a holocaust related show.  It's like a comic book take on Nazi hunting.

    I did enjoy "The Boys", which is also a dark comedy series on Amazon.    

    I finished the last episode last night. (none / 0) (#16)
    by Chuck0 on Thu Mar 05, 2020 at 08:31:54 AM EST
    You are correct. It is comic booky. I don't know how you see that as "inappropriate." Are there rules now on how you depict nazi hunting and the holocaust?

    It just seems little weird going back and forth (none / 0) (#17)
    by McBain on Thu Mar 05, 2020 at 09:52:39 AM EST
    between brutal torture killings to lighter comedic moments.  Some of it worked for me but not all. It almost seems like two different shows.   I might get back to it but now I'm into a Unabomber documentary series on Netflix.

    Just Curious (none / 0) (#18)
    by RickyJim on Thu Mar 05, 2020 at 11:08:01 AM EST
    Have you read or listened to any good books recently?  I don't watch much TV so most of the time I haven't the foggiest idea of what you and Howdy are talking about. I am finishing listening to "The Mill of the Floss", read by Jill Tanner and have rented a DVD version of it from Netflix. I've listened to or read maybe 15 or so books on Donald Trump since he burst onto the political scene.  Time not well spent since reading online articles covers most of what one needs to know.

    The last book I read was Joel Gilbert's (none / 0) (#19)
    by McBain on Thu Mar 05, 2020 at 12:06:26 PM EST
    The Trayvon Hoax
    I believe you're familiar with it? I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. I'm still waiting for the lazy mainstream media to look into these significant allegations.

    I don't read books like I used to.  Instead, I spend a fair amount of time reading National Geographic and various online articles and blogs related to topics I'm interested in. Years ago I was into Steven King and biographies of interesting people. Now, I spend too much time listening to snippets of podcasts.

    Despite all the options for TV, you really aren't missing much.  There are a few good shows here and there but nothing all that great.  I cut the cord a few years ago and now only have streaming services, which are usually best for viewing classic films.  I'm planning on seeing Vertigo and The Good The Bad And The Ugly soon.    


    PBS is the Only TV Network I Watch (none / 0) (#21)
    by RickyJim on Thu Mar 05, 2020 at 06:38:15 PM EST
    Fortunately I get some clear signals with my roof antenna.  Nova, Frontline and Great Performances are my favorites.

    I watched NOVA program about the science of (none / 0) (#22)
    by McBain on Fri Mar 06, 2020 at 09:29:24 AM EST
    sleep recently.  I forgot how good that show can be.  

    I liked the little comic flashes. (none / 0) (#20)
    by Chuck0 on Thu Mar 05, 2020 at 12:37:02 PM EST
    Reminded me of Family Guy.

    RIP Max Von Sydow (none / 0) (#23)
    by McBain on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 11:29:43 AM EST
    Swedish actor Max von Sydow, who made his name in the films of Ingmar Bergman before featuring in international hits like "Game of Thrones," has died at the age of 90.

    I don't really know him from the Ingmar Bergman films.  I'm more familiar with his work in The Exorcist, Hannah and Her Sisters and some campy but fun films like Flash Gordan and Strange Brew.  He was in a wide variety of things. I believe the last film I saw him in was Three Days of the Condor.

    I saw (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Zorba on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 01:41:34 PM EST
    him in Bergman's The Seventh Seal.
    Terrific actor, terrific movie (although very dark and difficult to watch, but then, it's about Death).
    May von Sydow Rest In Peace.

    1957 was quite a year (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by jondee on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 06:30:47 PM EST
    for films. Along with The Seventh Seal, Bergman's Wild Strawberries, Paths of Glory, The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Face in the Crowd, 12 Angry Men, Witness For The Prosecution..

    Woah (none / 0) (#26)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 02:38:08 PM EST
    WAy back.  How about The Virgin Spring.

    The things is tho he was great all the way back then but he stayed great.  And relevant

    Hard to find a "hot young star" who could match his appearances in recent entertainment zeitgeist

    Star Wars, Game of Thrones countless major movies like Minority Report


    I saw (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Zorba on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 03:15:47 PM EST
    The Virgin Spring, too.
    Bergman's films are outstanding but difficult to watch, and von Sydow was just a terrific actor.

    Cries and Whispers (none / 0) (#28)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 03:18:11 PM EST
    No Max (I think) but so good and SO hard to watch.

    Doesn't this sound like a good time? (none / 0) (#29)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 03:35:37 PM EST
    As Agnes (Harriet Andersson) slowly dies of cancer, her sisters are so deeply immersed in their own psychic pains that they can't offer her the support she needs. Maria (Liv Ullmann) is wracked with guilt at her husband's suicide, caused by his discovery of her extramarital affair. The self-loathing, suicidal Karin (Ingrid Thulin) seems to regard her sister with revulsion. Only Anna (Kari Sylwan), the deeply religious maid who lost her young child, seems able to offer Agnes solace and empathy.

    We're already (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by Zorba on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 04:59:49 PM EST
    depressed enough as it is, maybe we should be watching comedies and musicals.

    Fair (none / 0) (#31)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 05:08:25 PM EST
    But if any movie would ever take you out of your own problems.

    It's probably my favorite Bergman film.  But I am not in a hurry to see it again.  

    I have an amazing book I was just looking at called Inferno by the photographer James Natchwey

    I bought it many years ago.  Not cheap.  Looked at it once and have not touched it since.  Until two day ago. Glad I have it tho.
    It's the same with my Cries and Whispers DVD


    War crime photos.. (none / 0) (#32)
    by jondee on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 06:03:35 PM EST
    Natchwey said "people have got to know."

    Von Sydow (none / 0) (#34)
    by MKS on Mon Mar 09, 2020 at 07:46:44 PM EST
    in the Three Days of the Condor.

    Very memorable as the serene, cultured and efficient assassin.  Just sticks in one's memory.

    His last scene with Redford was classic, warning him how he would be abducted and killed (by someone else), and advising him to go Europe.


    More (none / 0) (#35)
    by MaxFleming on Mon Mar 23, 2020 at 12:43:12 PM EST
    SITE VIOLATOR (none / 0) (#36)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Mar 23, 2020 at 04:06:33 PM EST