Category: Weekly Reviews

 

I don’t know how to play chess. In the past, I didn’t care to learn because chess seemed like a boring game to me. Today, I confess I don’t play because chess intimidates me. If I were to begin playing and then suck at it, and continue to suck at it, I might have to admit to myself that I am not smart enough for this intellectual pursuit.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not intrigued by the so-called Game of Kings. I read a book about American chess genius Bobby Fischer (Endgame), watched a documentary about him (Bobby Fischer Against the World), and was moved by 1993’s Searching for Bobby Fischer, Steve Zaillian’s drama about a child chess prodigy.

And now there is Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, an addictive miniseries about another chess wunderkind, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (pictured above).

I am finding the climactic chess matches between Beth (Taylor-Joy) and whatever (always male) opponent she is matched with just as exciting as Rocky Balboa’s boxing encounters with Apollo Creed. No, wait; I am finding the scenes in Queen’s Gambit more exciting.

Rocky can swallow all the raw eggs in the world and cry “Yo, Adrian!” until he’s blue in the face, and he is still not as intriguing as the socially stunted, steely-eyed Beth Harmon in Queen.

Of course, I’ve only seen the first three episodes. If future episodes suck (unlikely), I’ll get back to you.

 

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Kristen Welker was surprisingly good as a debate moderator. Also, she looked smashing in that outfit.

 

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At this point, I’m guessing that everyone who is going to vote knows who he or she is going to vote for.

Then again … I remember driving to my polling place in November 2016, and still not being entirely sure about who I planned to vote for.

 

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Dinkle vs. King

 

 

© 2010-2020 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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Silly me. I thought the week’s big news would stem from Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, which instead has been the week’s big snooze.

Although I will have to say, it’s good that we got to the bottom of whether she hates puppies (Sen. John Kennedy) and whether she’s raped anyone (Sen. Mazie Hirono).

 

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“Why would the NBA take 500 million dollars-plus from a country that is engaging in ethnic cleansing?” — Megyn Kelly to Mark Cuban

“So basically, you’re saying nobody should do business with China ever,” Cuban retorted. “They are a customer of ours, and guess what, Megyn? I’m OK with doing business with China.”

 

By that logic, Cuban would have had no problem “doing business” with Hitler in 1944.

 

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I’ve always felt that the danger of “election interference” from Russia pales in comparison to election interference from Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and Jack Dorsey. Seriously, who has more influence on social discourse in America, Russian political ads, or the overlords of Facebook, Twitter and Google?

 

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The Banality of Evil

 

I used to think the face of evil looked a lot like this:

 

 

Not anymore. Now I think the face of evil looks like a frat boy:

 

        Mark Zuckerberg                      Sundar Pichai                       Jack Dorsey

 

The problem with these guys is that they have no background in journalism, yet their platforms have been thrust – big-time – into the arena of politics. And nerds-at-heart Jack and Mark and Sundar want nothing more than to be in with the “cool” people. Because they are nerds.

Come to think of it, that’s the same problem most mainstream journalists have.

 

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Twitter and Facebook are censoring Donald Trump, the White House spokeswoman, House Republicans, and the New York Post – and there are still Democrats who scoff at the idea that social-media titans are attempting to swing the election to Joe Biden?

 

 

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What she said.

 

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I’m throwing another lifeline to Netflix’s To the Lake. It’s a good show that is apparently getting zero attention (a measly three reviews on Rotten Tomatoes). If Netflix could give a boost to Schitt’s Creek, surely it can raise the profile of this gem.

 

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It’s been years since I watched The Price Is Right, but I happened to be home in the daytime recently and good grief. Is there a more attractive woman than Price model Manuela Arbelaez (below)?

 

 

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If the polls are right – and they are never wrong, are they? – half the country is about to find out what the other half has been feeling for the past four years.

The big question: If Trump does in fact go down in three weeks, will the unhappy right react the same way that the left did, i.e., like whining, screaming, recalcitrant, spoiled brats?

 

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TV Tidbits

 

My early impressions of two new series on Netflix:

 

The Haunting of Bly Manor – cliched stuff. It’s handsomely produced, but Henry James-pedigreed or not, everything in this show feels so been-there, done-that. Caveat: That’s based on viewing just the first episode.

 

To the Lake – a very pleasant surprise. I’ve consumed one other Russian series, The Method, which was watchable but odd. It felt as though many of the characters and stories on that crime drama had dropped into my television from Tolstoy’s Russia, even though the show was set in present day.

 

Above, The Method with Paulina Andreeva and Konstantin Khabenskiy

 

But Lake, through four episodes, is relentlessly gripping. The story is stale – deadly, zombie-like epidemic envelops the world – but the Russian creative team makes it fresh and exciting.

 

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One thing both The Method and To the Lake have in common: hot actresses. Unlike Russia-Gate or whatever you want to call it, this is one Russian invasion I can live with.

See for yourself (click on photos for a larger view):

 

 

Paulina Andreeva (The Method)

 

 

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Viktoriya Agalakova (To the Lake)

 

 

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Maryana Spivak (To the Lake)

 

 

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Natalya Zemtsova (To the Lake)

 

 

Because it was absolutely essential to the plot, at one point in the third episode, three of the four female stars of To the Lake appear in a nude sauna scene. This includes the pregnant Natalya Zemtsova, who was either actually pregnant during filming, or had use of one very convincing prosthetic stomach.

 

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The Grouchy Editor has been criticized for focusing too much on naked ladies at the expense of actual news (see above). But Hugh Hefner has gone to that bunny hutch in the sky, and someone has to carry on the tradition.

Also, what are we supposed to do when the New York Post informs us that the head coach of our favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, is dating this girl?

 

 

 

No wonder Zimmer’s team is 1-3. How’s a coach supposed to concentrate on football when he wakes up to that in the morning?

 

**

 

 

© 2010-2020 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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“Wokeness” rules the day in Enola Holmes

 

Enola Holmes

 

Watching Millie Bobby Brown in this Netflix movie, I was reminded of early Hayley Mills. Brown and Mills started out in kid-friendly hits (Disney flicks for Hayley; Stranger Things for Millie), then both branched out into more tween-oriented fluff: Enola Holmes and The Moon-Spinners.

We’re talking about two youthful Brits with charisma up the butt, appealing to both kids and adults. When I was a youngster, I was infatuated with Hayley. If I was a tween today, I might well be equally smitten with Brown. For both of these charmers, the word “spunk” comes to mind.

As an adult, however, I was put off by Enola Holmes’s heavy-handed feminism and the imposition of woke sensibilities on 19th-century Britain.

But this is 2020, and that sort of thing is, apparently, inevitable.

Kids grade: B+

Adult grade: C

 

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Some election-outcome advice:

 

The tough thing is going to be maintaining an even emotional keel. Just remember, if your guy loses, it’s not the end of the world. Also good to remember: If your guy wins, most of the problems we have right now are not going to go away.

You’re welcome.

Now if only I was confident that I will be taking my own advice.

 

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Everyone was on pins and needles, anxiously awaiting the (supposedly) traditional “October Surprise.” Leave it to Donald Trump. He doesn’t do surprises; Trump does bombshells.

 

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Debate Takeaway:

 

I was surprised to learn, courtesy of Chris Wallace, that a small group called the Proud Boys is largely responsible for all the violence plaguing our cities. Silly me. And good for Chris, son of Mike, for pressing Trump on why he won’t denounce this scourge on society, these “Proud Boys.”

I am so clueless. Here I was, thinking that it was leftist groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter that were wreaking all the havoc.

 

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I keep harping on this, probably to no avail. But Tucker Carlson put it better than I could:

 

 

If we could just get a handle on our outrageous income inequality, 95 percent of our other problems would go away, or at least diminish. Everyone has to have a shot at The American Dream — or at the very least, believe they have a shot at it.

 

 

What she said. Although, I would also put the onus on Republicans.

 

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Dinkle vs. King

 

 

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© 2010-2020 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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Above, Kasper and Birgitte kick political ass in Denmark

 

How to Make a Great TV Show … and Ruin It

 

Midway through my binge-watch of Denmark’s acclaimed drama Borgen (2010-2013), somewhere during season two of the three-season series, I decided I was watching the best political show television has ever produced. And yes, that includes The West Wing and House of Cards (American version; I haven’t seen the British original).

Borgen isn’t as rah-rah patriotic as West Wing, with the latter’s rousing speeches and good-guys-win storylines. Nor is it as melodramatic as House of Cards; no reporters get pushed into the path of an oncoming subway train.

But the show’s balance of governmental machinations with the toll taken on participants’ personal lives is unparalleled.

Yet a funny thing happened on the way to Borgen’s third season: They demoted the most interesting character. Pilou Asbaek, as the prime minister’s charming-yet-conniving “spin doctor,” Kasper Juul, went from one of two main reasons to watch Borgen (the other being Sidse Babett Knudsen as Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg), to brief, token appearances in the third and final season.

Turns out I can’t blame this disastrous development on the show’s writers. Turns out Asbaek made other acting commitments during the lull between seasons two and three, while the show’s network was mulling renewal for another ten episodes. As a result, Borgen went from a great show to … a good show.

But I highly recommend it – especially those first two seasons.

Seasons 1-2:  A     Season 3:  B+

 

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Question: What would happen if the media and regular folk stopped taking pictures and video at the ongoing riots? What if only the print media were allowed to report on the chaos?

My guess is that most of the madness would die out. No pictures, no story.

 

**

 

 

For once, LeBron James and I agree on something.

 

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Well, it’s the end of an era, and much of America is in mourning. The news of this passing, when it came, was a blow to many of us, if not an entirely unexpected one. Alas, all good things must come to an end.

It is true that for half of the country, this announcement was not greeted with grief and despair, but rather with (tactless) glee and relief. But this is a loss felt deeply by millions of citizens, especially women.

After decades of standing strong for women’s rights, who or what will replace this icon of female power:

 

 

Indeed, “what does it all mean”?

 

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Oh, yeah. This woman died:

 

 

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But seriously … if the conspiracy theorists are correct and our existence on Earth is nothing more than some kind of cosmic, simulated game, the climax of which is called “2020,” can the cosmic gods please put an end to the damn thing already, or at least take a bathroom break?

 

© 2010-2020 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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I thought I should check out Netflix’s Cuties this week, just to see what all the fuss is about. But good lord … after I read some of the vitriolic comments about this movie on Twitter, it seems to me that even expressing an interest in the thing is enough to put you on someone’s hit list.

Maybe I’ll watch it later – assuming it’s still there.

 

The controversy over Cuties’ sexualization of children reminds me of the rationale for showing graphic rape scenes/nudity in “revenge” flicks. Filmmakers know they can get by with it if they insist that they are really against it.

But the difference between Cuties and something like I Spit on Your Grave — and it is a big difference — is the age of the actors.

 

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Way back in the early 1980s, I was a young man recently moved from Minnesota to Dallas, Texas. I joined a company softball team and was amused one sunny afternoon when I could hear players on the opposing bench refer to me as a “Yankee.” I thought they were joking. Ha ha.

To naïve me, “Yankee” was a term that died out 100 years earlier, when the South assimilated back into the Union. It was ancient history.

Over the coming years in Texas, I came to understand that the “us vs. them” worldview that rocked the country in the 1860s was very much alive and well in the 1980s South.

This makes me wonder about post-election America in 2020. Will “Trumpers” become the new “Yankees,” embodying a toxic cultural division that haunts us for a century or more?

 

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I am confused. Was the alligator trimming trees, or was it the woman’s legs that were trimming trees?

 

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Just a Thought 

Rather than give $1,200 stimulus checks to tens of millions of Americans so that they can pay the rent, why not give checks to older Americans and those with compromised immunity systems on the condition that they stay home, and let everyone else get back to work?

Hey, I’m an older American, so I’d have to stay home if they did this. But I think that beats the alternative.

 

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Bayleigh Dayton got the boot from the Big Brother house this week. Bayleigh is emphatically not underage, but she is emphatically a girl.

 

 

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I am finally, finally able to watch Denmark’s acclaimed series Borgen, which unexpectedly popped up on my Netflix menu. So far, I’ve seen the first four episodes, and my initial impressions are:

 

Pros:

It manages to make politics fun. The action is fast-paced, and our exposure to “stirring” speeches and boring committee meetings is limited.  In that respect, it’s a bit like The West Wing.

Most of the characters are well-written and well-portrayed. But not all of them (see “Cons,” below). The politicians, media people, and ancillary characters do not require lengthy backstories or exposition to seem real from the get-go.

 

Cons:

I cannot stomach the family dynamics of the protagonist prime minister and her husband (pictured above). The husband, especially, comes off as a smug, feminist wet dream. Support his wife? You bet! Content to stay home and play Mr. Mom? You got it! Do all the Christmas shopping without complaint? Of course! Prefer his wife on top during sex? What do you think?

I am hoping that this guy, a college lecturer, has an affair with the brunette student who has her eye on him, if only to confirm my suspicion that he is actually a conniving jerk.

Our hero, the aforementioned prime minister, is also a bit too good to be true. But so was Jed Bartlet, so I suppose that’s to be expected in a show like this.

 

**

 

Young Wallander

I’ve only watched the first episode, but so far, the series seems mediocre enough. Not bad, not great, just … another cop show.

 

**

 

Now they are saying that the nightmare we call 2020 will not likely climax on November 3. They are saying that because of the virus and mail-in ballots and stubborn candidates, we are not likely to know election results for weeks, or even months.

And so, 2021 will likely be much like 2020. Or worse.

I believe I’ll see if I can get a job as librarian at the McMurdo Library in Antarctica.

 

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My ban from Omegle finally expired. Just in case you are wondering how long these bans last, mine was three months. Just long enough for me to forget what attracted me to the site in the first place.

 

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Donald Trump disparages the troops and Nancy Pelosi gets a haircut: no great surprise, either one.

Trump and Pelosi are highly competitive, powerful people. To get where they are, part of their motivation no doubt entails a certain contempt for those who don’t make it to where they are.

Sad but true, I’m afraid.

 

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**

 

Dinkle vs. King

 

 

© 2010-2020 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

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The problem with these “protests” (translation: riots) is that they too often target easy prey: small businesses and innocent passersby.

This happens because it is much simpler to torch Sam’s Barber Shop than to loot Bill Gates’s mansion.

We get it: You’re angry and you want to vent. But putting the Vangs out of their shoe-store business isn’t going to accomplish anything. Oh, I take that back – it will likely succeed in re-electing Donald Trump.

If you must vandalize property and terrorize people, I would humbly suggest that you go after more appropriate, albeit well-protected, citizens. Like, for instance, the people and homes showcased on this tone-deaf series, which airs on Fox Nation:

 

 

Talk about terrible timing. Is this really a good year to resurrect Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?

 

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I’m beginning to think that the mainstream media uses this “mostly peaceful” term on purpose, just to trigger its critics.

 

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1BR, now playing on Netflix, is a pleasant surprise. It’s a horror movie that’s somewhat original.

Like so much horror these days, 1BR takes itself very seriously, and the tone is a bit soul-sucking. But it’s also clever and I dug the ending.

 

 

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TV and film critics want you to think that they’re smarter than you. For instance, they can spot the hidden messages and metaphors in a show that sail right past you. Critics recognize allusions to other series or movies that you do not.

They call obscure directors by their surnames only — because they know who Fellini is; don’t you? — or by their first names only, because they want us to think that they are pals with Quentin. Or Steven.

The worst thing you can say to a critic is, “You dummy!”

 

I certainly felt like a dummy while watching the Polish crime drama The Mire on Netflix.

I really liked the characters, the look of the show, the dreary atmosphere and the acting. The story was gripping, too. I highly recommend it.

Problem is, I was confused much of the time and completely baffled by the final episode. I felt like a dummy. It’s tough enough to watch a subtitled series with Polish names and Polish politics and Polish history without feeling as though giant chunks of the story are hidden behind some screenwriter’s Iron Curtain.

And so I was relieved when I discovered that my ignorance or stupidity wasn’t (entirely) my fault. Netflix had screwed up.

On most shows, Netflix gives you the option to “skip intro” at the start of each new episode so that you don’t have to rewatch the opening credits. But for some infernal reason, “skip intro” on The Mire means you are actually skipping a minute or two of the beginning of the newest episode.

 

And then I learned on IMDB that a 10-minute prologue to the entire series is inexplicably gone from the Netflix version. They got to see this intro in Poland, apparently.

You can find the prologue on YouTube, but it is in Polish without subtitles. Of course.

It features many people speaking Polish, and also a stripper. The stripper, thank goodness, does not require subtitles:

 

 

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