Movie Review Roundup

As much as I’m glued to YouTube watching the world unravel, I’m still a movie buff. In the past few weeks I saw three.

On Christmas, I saw Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.  On New Year’s Eve, I saw The Operative. Today I saw Ford vs. Ferrari.

Short non-spoiler reviews

Star Wars. Generally thumbs up. Lots of fan service and a good send off for a movie series that has been part of my world view for most of my life. I saw it in 3D 4DX, which helped me ignore the plot holes and ridiculous writing.

The Operative. Hand waggle. I wanted to like this movie. Martin Freeman is in it. A female Mossad operative in Tehran. The movie has lots of good parts that simply don’t hang together well.

Ford vs. Ferrari. Generally thumbs up. I miss driving. I miss amazing cars. This movie should have been about a passion for something that deep in your soul you have to do, instead it was about a race and spirit-crushing corporations.

Longer reviews (mild spoilers)

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

Seeing this movie in 3D 4DX means that I felt like I was *in* the movie. Things are coming at me (3D) and my seat moves like a roller coaster, wind blows through my hair, I’m sprayed with water, and then during fight scenes, my seat turns into a massage chair and I’m (gently) bonked in the back in time to the fight scenes (4DX). I literally held on to my seat for two hours. BEST TIME EVER!

It was enough to distract from the poor writing (Stormtroopers using jetpacks. C3PO: They fly now! Finn: They fly now? Poe: They fly now.). But even with all the distractions, I was quite disappointed in Kylo Ren’s redemption arc (because it wasn’t believable, not because it didn’t have a Hollywood ending) and ambivalent about Rey’s lineage and ultimate rejection of said lineage.

We get to say goodbye to the original characters and the story that brought them to the screen. It’s the end of an era and I’m glad I was part of the story all along the way.

The Operative

Based on a novel written by a Mossad officer (The English Teacher), directed by an Israeli, and featuring Israeli actors, there was a lot that I wanted to like. I had to suspend a lot of disbelief starting with a British citizen as a Mossad handler who doesn’t speak Hebrew, but understands to a level that he can be in briefings. (Story of my life in Israel, but I’m not in the Mossad!) And a non-Israeli female operative is sent alone into a deep cover mission in Tehran and she speaks no Farsi (Persian)?

There’s a weirdly pointless mission in Turkey and all I thought was: “Am I supposed to believe that this Mossad operative has had no weapons training and no close quarters fight training and they still sent her alone to meet with Muslim men in the middle of a desolate desert in eastern Turkey?”

And then it just ends. My mouth dropped open because I was so shocked that it just suddenly ended. I felt like a reel was missing.

Ford vs Ferrari (in the UK Le Mans ’66)

The movie stays true to history and if it had stuck to the passion, it would have been a better movie. I felt like studio execs read the original script and decided they needed a strong woman and a family life (Ken’s wife and son) so women would go see the film and they needed a villain (Leo Beebe and the corporate line) so that there would be “tension.” Whatever. The parts of the movie that work are the relationship between Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby and the blinding passion they have for cars, speed, and beating their own best record.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale are fantastic actors – honestly, I would watch them in anything – and they are the heart and soul of the film. I liked seeing Lee Iacocca struggle against the ordinariness of the Ford Corporation, but seeing these passionate guys go up against Big Business shouldn’t have been what the movie was about.

I’m glad it wasn’t about good old America and Ford sticking it to the Italians and Ferrari. There’s a  moment when Enzo Ferrari tips his hat to Ken Miles. We understand that the moment is about the love of the perfect lap in the perfect car at the best speed possible (so far). Ford is just in it for the optics of winning. It’s in these moments that the movie really works.

For me, I love classic cars and there are some real beauties in this film. My favorite moments were when the engine would rev at 7,000 or 8,000 rpms and Ken would shift into higher gear and just fly. In real life, those are the moments we live for.


In transit

Actually, I’ve already arrived in Berlin. Last night, I stayed at a fun, party hostel with loud dance music – think “Despacito,” “What Is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me),” German drinking songs, and house/hip hop – and enjoyed my complimentary “martini.”

Now I’m in my more stable accommodation that will be my actual “mobile office” and home base while I take a massage course.

Just getting here was an adventure…


The airport in Tel Aviv was ridiculously crowded. Four budget airlines with all their weekend flights leaving at approximately the same time.  It was madness.

But we’ve reached a new age in travel seating – charging stations!


My flight seemed to be running on time and we got in the air.  About 15 minutes into the flight, “Is there a doctor on the plane?” Yes, there was a medical emergency, and yes, there was a doctor on the plane.

Next announcement, “We are returning to Tel Aviv for an emergency landing.” And we turned around.  The landing was smooth but felt extremely heavy.  After all, we landed with a full tank of fuel.

Thankfully, the person with the medical emergency walked off the plane under his own power.

Next announcement, “Please stay in your seats.  We will take off after we get our landing gear checked.”

Then: “For security reasons, we have to remove the luggage of the person who got off the plane.”

Eventually we got back in the air, only about 2 hours later than scheduled.

But then those calm, understanding people who had allowed for a medical emergency and who mostly stayed in their seats on the plane faced a single passport official dealing with all the non-EU passports. At one point they tried to crowd the booth nearly causing a security incident because they just couldn’t understand why we were standing in this dang line for so long. (But seriously, she examined each person’s passport like she thought she should run them all through INTERPOL.)

Once I passed that endurance test, my bag was practically waiting for me on the carousel, the bus pulled up to take me into the city, and R2D2 showed up to let me know everything was going to be okay.



Sticks and Stones … But Words …

Sticks and Stones Will Break Your Bones, But Words Will Frame Your World

After a month of holiday posts, the elephant in the room should probably be tended to.  Violence.  Yes, it is still going on.  In Israel, but everywhere else as well.

Last week, after I posted my entry to the blog, news came out of a shooting in Tel Aviv.  It was unclear at the time if it was regular violence, Islamic State-inspired terrorism, or a mentally unbalanced individual who went off the rails.  As of this writing, the perpetrator is still at large and there are still not many concrete details to be had because of a gag order on these events. (*Update: as of this posting the perpetrator was killed in a shootout with police.)

This week in Israel there is also a debate about whether torture was used during questioning of the suspects of the Duma arson attack that killed members of a Palestinian family, including an infant.  A few days ago a 21-year-old Jewish settler was indicted for murder in the case.

Then there is the odd story of the militia men in Oregon who have taken over a federal building.  I just read a news story that called them “Millennium Marlboro Men.”  Somewhere between the lyrical, romanticized descriptions of these guys, I gather the problem has something to do with land rights and freeing two guys who are in prison.

In the midst of it all, a Facebook meme and a proper opinion piece come up with the narrative that Star Wars is the story of how Luke Skywalker became a radicalized terrorist.  It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there is some reasonable logic behind it, if you look at the story in a certain way.


(*Disclaimer: I don’t buy into this at all because I know that Star Wars is a Hero’s Journey story.  Hero myths are present in all cultures in the world and a “hero” is not usually a conformist.)

It’s the words that make all the difference in each story.

If the events are described as “terrorism” then it’s easy to condemn the perpetrator.  Throw in possible mental illness, well, then it’s a tragedy for all concerned and the finger of blame points at the perpetrator, but also the society that failed him (especially true in the US).  Toss around the term “Jewish terrorism” and, in Israel, the shock and shame are palpable.  iPhone-toting Marlboro Men with guns dressed in camo is straight out of the movies.  They are taking over a federal (read: Evil Empire) building for freedom.  And then our hero Luke.  He uses the Force to fire a rocket that blows up the Death Star and kills hundreds of thousands of people.  Is he in the Rebellion or is he a radicalized terrorist?

So who shapes our world?  Are we swallowing what’s given to us or are we critically thinking?  After all, the phrase “justifiable homicide” feels different than “cold-blooded murder.”  “Terror” is a lot heavier than “random shooting.”  It’s above and beyond the idea of “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”  In the global society that we live in today, if someone decides that a person is a terrorist, then that can be proclaimed from the global rooftop.  Someone else can decide that same person is a freedom fighter and shouts that from the global rooftop.  Then it becomes a matter of who gets more social media followers, facts be damned.

Here’s the last news item for this week.  Shurat HaDin (an Israeli NGO) did a Facebook experiment.  They opened two pages:  one incited against Israelis and one incited against Palestinians and they uploaded a bunch of content to both.  Then they reported both.  The one that got shut down was the one inciting against Palestinians.  The one against Israelis didn’t (until the experiment was publicized).

In the end, it also matters who runs the global rooftop that you are shouting from.


1 Fun Thing; 1 Serious Thing

Hmm.  What happened this week?


If you don’t know what this is, then I don’t even know where to begin.

Star Wars!

No, I didn’t go to the premiere in Israel, though I read a great review about it. It was a pretty big deal here.  And I have to say that I’m glad people went out and made a fuss.  Terrible things continue to occur in the streets, but come hell or high water, nothing stops Star Wars.  (It did actually rain a lot recently, so the high water remark was not just a throw-away line.)

The great thing about being in Israel for the premiere is that we saw it before you all did! (Neener, neener, neener!)

I will see it, but I may wait a while because the idea of a hugely crowded theater kind of turns me off.  On the other hand, Star Wars.  No spoilers please!

And now for something completely serious.

There are a number of debates in Israel right now about many things, but one that bothers me, and one that I don’t have an answer to, is the directive issued by the Israeli Medical Association.  They said that the wounded in a terror attack should be treated in order of severity, no matter who they are.  What this means in practice is that if an attacker has more severe wounds than a victim, the attacker will be treated first.

A volunteer emergency services organization, ZAKA, has refused to comply.  They said that they will treat Jewish victims of the attack first.  Their rationale is based in Jewish teachings: “He who is merciful to the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful.”

One of the incidents that caused the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) to make this ruling was an attack in Beer Sheva where an Eritrean ran away from the scene and everyone in the area thought he was the attacker.  So he was beaten and kicked by the bystanders and eventually died from his wounds, in part because he was ignored by the medical services personnel.

On one hand, I can see the humanity of using triage to rank all the wounds of all the people.  Who really knows with absolute certainty in the middle of chaos who the attacker was?  On the other hand, is one horrible situation the measure to use for making the rule?  How do you explain to the family of a victim of an attack that you treated the attacker first?  What if the victim is permanently disfigured or perhaps even dies while the attacker survives because of the triage decision you were forced to make?

Attackers are treated in Israeli hospitals by Israeli doctors and stay in rooms probably down the hall from their victims.  The news reports of the case in October of the 13-year-old stabber showed him in Hadassah Hospital.  In the same hospital, his victim was put in a medically induced coma and miraculously woke up (*he celebrated his bar mitzvah this week and claims to be 95% better).

I heard an interesting/troubling comment after the IMA announcement was made.  Security services may feel that they shouldn’t shoot to stop an attacker, but actually shoot to kill so that the attacker will not take a victim’s place in triage.  I’m not sure that is the intent of the ruling, but it could be a consequence.

I was also troubled by the phrasing of the ZAKA response.  I hope that they meant all victims of an attack, not just the Jewish ones.  I hope that they wouldn’t set aside an injured victim who was a Druze, Bedouin, Christian Arab, or Muslim Arab simply based on the fact that he or she isn’t Jewish.

In the middle of chaos, emergency services need to know what to do, so they need some kind of directive.  But which one is “just”?  Which one is more “humane”?  There are no simple, easy answers here and we find ourselves in the gray area yet again.

ScreenHunter_01 Dec. 18 20.01

And that will do it for this week!

To those of you who are going to see Star Wars, DON’T TELL ME ANYTHING!  Thumbs up or thumbs down would be okay though.