Cloud Atlas

JMM: Cloud Atlas. What a peculiar title. What does it mean? In all likelihood, it means something different to each of us because in the vernacular of the film itself we are all connected yet at the same time we are all separate.

To see this film is a trip into history as well as a lengthy look into the future. But that is kind of a simplistic overview. So today, I’ve asked reader FD to join me for a discussion of this film. On that note I’ll invite FD to kick this off with an opening statement.

FD:  According to Wikipedia, a Cloud Atlas is a guidebook for identifying the different types of clouds (e.g., cirrus, cumulus, stratus, etc.).  David Mitchell , author of the novel upon which the movie is based, says the “Atlas” part refers to things in life that remain constant; “Cloud” refers to what can change. In other words, “Atlas” is existence and “Cloud” is the soul.

He took the title from a piece of music by Toshi Ichiyanagi, who was once married to Yoko Ono. So this is a story of continuous existence,  how some part of us may survive even after death.  And the tagline, “Everything is Connected”  implies the cause and the effect of each life that a soul experiences.

JMM: The above statements were written by each of us before either of us had seen the film. Now that we have both seen the film – we have a bit more solid footing. It is my view that film cannot be easily described or explained. Having said that I will quote two speeches made in the film:

The first is by Tom Hanks (as Dr. Henry Goose): Fear, belief, and love are phenomena that determine the course of our lives. These forces began long before we were born and continue long after we perish.

The other is voiced by Susan Sarandon (as The Abbess): Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others: past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.

Would you agree that these statements – even out of context – are at the heart of the film, and go a long way to describe the film’s main theme?

FD:  First off, I want to go out of my way to agree with you that this is a very unusual movie and certainly not easy to describe or explain. And it’s certainly not an easy movie to review. In fact at one point in the film, the book publisher Timothy Cavendish played by Jim Broadbent says to  author Dermot Hoggins, played by Tom Hanks, “Come now – what’s a reviewer? One who reads quickly, arrogantly, but never wisely.”

On the left – Timothy Cavendish played by Jim Broadbent. On the right Dermot Hoggins, played by Tom Hanks

JMM: [interrupting] Here is the review that led Mr. Hoggins to give his reviewer, a Mr. Finch an award of ‘free flight’:

None-hit wonders like Mr. Hoggins are the road kills of modern letters. Mr. Hoggins should apologize to the trees felled for his bloated ‘autobio-novel’. Four hundred vainglorious pages expire in an ending flat and inane quite beyond belief.

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Boss: Sn 2 Final Episode 10 – True Enough – Recap

This is the last episode of the Starz series Boss. It might be the last episode of the season, or possibly the last episode period. I’ve not heard anything definitive as to whether Boss has been renewed for a third season. We’ll have to wait on that.

But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this fine production. Kelsey Grammer as the beyond evil Boss – Tom Kane, the seemingly once and forever Mayor of Chicago is superb. His role as this finely textured and totally captivating evil presence should be noted as a hallmark performance. For once we have a villain that’s out there as and most believable as man, yet his acts are incredibly evil. It’s like he does stuff that you could never imagine him doing. If this were a film instead of a TV series, we would be hissing at him in theaters all over the country. Yet, he never sinks to a level of a caricature or that of a cartoon-ish villain.

If in effect, if his is the last Boss broadcast, I shall really miss the show.

Opening scene. Meredith Kane is sworn in as the new Alderman for the 11th Ward. Nepotism lives, as Meredith is Mayor Tom Kane’s wife. Kane cracks a joke: How about that – two Kane’s for the price of one. This was something of a surprise. However it can’t be a long-term role for the marvelous Connie Nielsen. Meredith as a wife, of course, but as an un-elected City official – clearly No.

002 – Chicago Sentinel – Sam Miller and Jackie discuss the murder of Kenya Taylor. A Sentinel staffer alerts Miller that Mr. Bane – the paper’s owner wants to meet for lunch. Jackie says, I hope you have suit. Miller: I don’t need no stinkin’ suit. If Miller has nothing else, surely he isn’t lacking in confidence.

I’ve loved Troy Garity in the role for two seasons. He’s gruff, rough, and unkempt. But he’s driven and that’s admirable. Even when his grasps exceeds his reach.

003. Street scene: Ben Zajac is commenting about Tina Patterson’s death. He extends condolences to Senator Walsh as well as Ms Patterson’s family. Zajac’s wife – hears him on the car radio.

004 – City Hall. Kitty O’Neill arrives dressed in a business black suit. Ian Todd attempts to head her off. But Kane comes out of his office and signals Todd to let her pass. Kane: It must be a difficult time for you. My sympathies to your organization. Kitty – May I speak with you privately?

005 – Kane’s office – Kitty wants her job back. She says I heard Mona Fredericks quit. Kane – She was fired just like you. Kitty: I wanted out of the Walsh camp even before all this. I want back in. I thought my 8 years of service were exemplary. Kane stands signaling the interview is over. Nice to see you again, Kitty. Kitty leaves with out a job offer.

I was dead wrong about Mona. I liked her drive and intensity as well as her courage. At one point I even suggested that she could be the replacement for Kane – should he ever be expelled from office. So mark that one down in the Loss column for me.

006 – City Hall – Elevator – Kitty calls Doyle. We now see that she was operating under Doyle’s threat. Doyle wants the dirt on Kane. Kitty says, He didn’t say anything. I can’t do this. Doyle – Cooperate or be charged as a co-defendant. I have 8 years of subpoenaed files. The choice is yours.

007 – Becker’s apartment. Doyle and his police detective are there. It looks like a single gunshot wound. Self inflicted. Nazi paraphernalia on the walls and around the apartment. It looks like Becker and Langley were on the same page. Becker was the assassin who took out Ezra Stone. Looks like Kane is ridding himself of loose ends. By the way, Becker has replaced Ezra Stone in Kane’s newly recurring hallucinations. Doyle says, Let’s get our ducks in a row. Keep a lid on this. Too many cops with big mouths.

That certainly is the truth. Watch for Detective DeNovo’s appearance again.

008 – Kane’s office – Ian Todd comes running in. The State’s Attorney called. They found the man who shot Mrs. Kane. He’s dead. Suicide. apparently he and Langley knew each other, they were both insane racists or something. That’s good news. Todd steps up and says – With Mona’s departure I was assuming – Kane puts him off – Never assume anything.

You almost want to feel sorry for Ian Todd. He is very good at his job – but whenever he seeks some sort of praise from Kane – Kane shuts him down. On the other hand, Todd is a bit of a snake. There’s nothing he hasn’t done in the service of the Mayor, nor is there anything he won’t do for his own purposes.

009 – The Fredericks home; Mona is freaking out. He called her Bitsy, How did he know that Shawn? How did he know our daughter’s nickname? Shawn – Maybe you mentioned it once. Mona – Trust me. I didn’t. Mona is looking around the apartment. She looks under lampshades. After a few moments Mona notices a hole in the ceiling next to the light fixture, and another similar hole in their bedroom ceiling. Mona – He watched!

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BOSS: Sn 2 Episode 9 – Clinch – Recap

The Starz series BOSS wrapped its second season a few days ago on Friday, October 19th. At this time we don’t know if there will be a third season. But things have come to a sensible and irresistibly clear conclusion. While everything for every character is not fully settled, it seems tidy to me. Much of what we witnessed over the two seasons has come full circle – if everything is not the really same as when it started, many things have changed but remain the same.

So let’s have a look at the last two weeks of Boss. I was in Europe at the time of the broadcast and it has taken me awhile to get caught up. So what follows is a scene-by-scene recap of the episode called Clinch. I’ve skipped some dialogue, and shortened some of it, but this is pretty much the entire episode. Let’s call it a play-by-play rather than a punch-by-punch.

Season 2, Episode 9 was entitled Clinch. As Mayor Tom Kane told us, this is an old sailors’ expression – Hard up in a clinch and no knife to cut the seizing. This means the sailors have experienced misfortune and have no way to get clear of it.

While this seemingly fits the episode, as it played out, it made the expression only partially true. Because no matter what else might happen, Tom Kane is still caught in the clutches of his Lewy Bodies Dementia (LBD), from which there is no escape. So in that sense, Kane himself was truly caught, or Hard up in a clinch.

For me the episode might have also been called Slippery Slopes. Because this is where most of the other characters found themselves. At the jump, we had Tom Kane, with proverbial hat-in-hand, standing in front of Governor Mack Cullen’s desk in the state capitol in Springfield.

Governor Cullen

Kane is asking for fiscal aid which isn’t forthcoming. Kane (standing) looks down at Cullen who is sitting at his desk:

Kane: Who do you think you are?
Cullen: I called for emergency management, the advance team will be there in the morning.
Kane: Who the fuck do you think you are?
Cullen: (rising to his feet) The Governor of the goddamn state, that’s who!
Kane: (having to leave empty-handed) Yeah [you] have no idea…

Back in Chicago, Meredith Kane arrives home after visiting her father, the former Mayor Rutledge, in the hospital. Emma is all over her with concern about her grandfather;

Emma: How is he?
Meredith: I’m not sure you have the right to know…

Meredith has heard that Emma (likely) withheld the old man’s meds which caused him to fall. We know that Emma did withhold the pills – the stupor-inducing meds. This leads to a grand confrontation. Emma basically accused Meredith of medically keeping the old man ‘out of it’ all these years and Emma wanted to know why. Meredith lashed out and slapped Emma. Emma struck back with a vicious shove which knocked Meredith over. Meredith (on the floor) was groaning and clutching her side. Of course Meredith had already been clutching her side and had some trouble breathing as she entered the house and climbed the stairs to her bedroom. A broken rib, a punctured lung – a hemorrhage from her wounds?

Sam Miller

There we are – just shy of four minutes into Episode 9 and already we’ve had two major confrontations. At the Chicago Sentinel, Sam Miller is telling his investigative reporter to do an in-depth background check on Detective DeNova who contacted him.


Jackie walks in and tells Miller about Elizabeth Borden who will be taking over the city – as the Emergency Manager. A staffer comes in and tells them that Kane has cut the after school programs. This is just the first of service cuts that Kane will make to free up some funds to cover the city from defaulting – which seems inevitable.Jackie tells Sam, “Borden will take Kane down before you can do it.”

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Argo was directed by Ben Affleck who not only was behind the camera but he also starred in the film as well. I thought his future was golden as a director after his great film about a Boston area heist team (The Town). Argo is not quite as good, yet it was engrossing, and a superb entertainment.

Argo is based on a true story about the extraction of 6 American diplomats who had been in hiding in the home of the Canadian Ambassador to Iran located in Tehran, Iran. The American embassy was overrun and taken over by the Iranians who demanded the extradition of the Shah of Iran from America back to Iran so he could be tried for his crimes.

66 people were taken hostage and of those, 52 would be held in captivity for 444 days. This film is not about those people. Instead, it is about the six who managed to escape out a back door on to a side street.

Affleck plays Tony Mendez, an ex-fil specialist working at the CIA’s headquarters at Langley. It’s his job to extract or ex-filtrate folks from difficult or awkward situations in unfriendly foreign countries.He’s all business, and is a serious guy. We don’t get much depth or back story for him, and Affleck plays him in a low-key manner.

The story presented to us in the film is a based on a real story, and real events. However it would be foolish to say that the film did not take some liberties. Of course some events were embellished or even made up. History is not always as exciting as Hollywood would have us believe.

Many critics have taken the film to task for this. I do not feel that way. If you want accuracy you would need to talk to many, many people. Each of them would have a slightly different perspective. So in my view – even among eye witnesses and/or participants there will always be a different view of the events as they happened.

Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez

So if Affleck and his screenwriter Chris Terrio and the guy who wrote the article about the event, Joshua Bearman, decided to toss in a faulty starter in a van, or a more menacing Iranian investigator, or even cars chasing an airplane on a runway – so be it. And you just might be glad they did.

The strengths of this film are the actors rather than the characters. Alan Arkin played a Hollywood producer named Lester Siegel – and Arkin stole every one of his scenes. John Goodman played a Hollywood Makeup and Effects artist. Together they shaped and formed the backbone and structure of the story that was born in the head of Tony Mendez.

His plan, often called the best of a number of bad ideas, was that he would go to Tehran, in an assumed identity as an executive of a film studio. Once in country, he would meet the hostages, give them their newly minted credentials and help them absorb not only the cover story, but the background of each of their made up identities. They would be posing as Canadians who had come to Tehran just a few days ago to scout out locations for a film, a down-scale Star Wars rip-off.

Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel: If I’m going to make a fake movie, then it’s going to be  a  fake hit.

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Sex, Drugs, and The Anne Frank House – Amsterdam, NL

Sex, drugs and The Anne Frank House constitute three of Amsterdam’s best known attractions. As the rain clouds ultimately drifted away from Holland’s lowlands – the sun finally came out for real on Sunday, my fourth day in Amsterdam. And off I went to explore all three.

You probably have heard that Amsterdam is famous for its Red-Light District. Well they’re open for business at all hours and you don’t have to look for any actual red lights themselves. Just walk straight down Damrak from Centraal Station until you notice a canal on your left. You’ll make a left turn at the point when you see the boats tied up.

After you make that left turn, the above picture is the view you will have of you look back towards the station. You can see how close to the train station this is. If those instructions are a bit basic or vague – please understand that I wasn’t in the know about where it was. You can have a look at Rick Steves’ Amsterdam Guide book for a map or google for it.

But if you are there in person, you just have to follow the crowds of excited young men. I saw and heard men from Poland, Russia, Italy, Spain, and Greece, even fellows from India, and I even saw a bunch of young lads all kilted out – Glasgowians?Maybe, but if not, they were certainly and definitely Scotsmen – I wouldn’t say for sure, but they were speaking English and to the best of my knowledge, the Irish and the Brits do not do kilts. Of course the Dutch themselves were present in droves, and many may have been avid ‘shoppers’ as they filled the streets.

Dead center in the middle of the district is a big old church, so sin and redemption are within steps of one another.

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Amsterdam NL: Rain or Rain?

Amsterdam: Rain or rain? I’m not kidding – the forecast was for sunshine. But we wouldn’t see sunshine until the mid afternoon on Sunday.

There’s a classic scene in the Marx Brothers film Duck Soup. Chicolini (played by the fast talking Chico Marx) was assigned to spy on Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) by his adversary from the neighboring country of Sylvania – Ambassador Trentino (played wonderfully by Louis Calhern). Trentino asks Chicolini for his report on Firefly’s activities –

Chicolini: Monday we watch-a Firefly’s house, but he no come, he wasn’t home. Tuesday we go to the ball game, but he fool us: he no show up. Wednesday HE go to the ball game, but we fool him, WE no show up. Thursday it was a double-header, nobody show up. Friday it rained all day, there was no ball game, so we stayed home, we listen to it over the radio.

The view from the balcony

Well folks, that’s sort of perfectly describes how my first few days in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, went. Rain and rain. If there had been a doubleheader scheduled, it would have been washed out. So after arriving on Thursday, Friday was scheduled to be ‘get to know the town day’. Needless to say – it rained off and on all day.

So the game plan changed. Instead of walking about and learning about this exciting and vibrant city which is all about personal freedom and doing your own thing – I stayed around the neighborhood. Went to the supermarket – where I did learn something:

A less exerting way to see the town

In Amsterdam, you have to ask for a bag – and then you’ve got to bag your own groceries. Well maybe she did ask me if I wanted a bag, only because my Dutch is kind of seriously lacking, I may have missed it. The other thing I missed is that they ask you if you want a receipt.

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Amsterdam NL – Good Evening Mr. Singh

Amsterdam, NL

Amsterdam – A city filled with canals and bikes – check out this boat with its own tree


The seven and half hour overnight flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam wasn’t bad at all. Delta now works with partners Air France, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The Atlanta airport has one runway out of commission for construction so things are running quite late both coming into Atlanta and departing. As such, a good number of folks booked from Atlanta To Paris, France missed their flight. They were offered a choice – they could fly Atlanta to London then on to Paris, or Atlanta to Amsterdam and then on to Paris. So my flight to Amsterdam was a full plane.

Amsterdam Schipol Airport is major transit point – a guy sitting across the aisle was picking up a flight to Damman, Saudi Arabia, near the Persian Gulf. He was from Oklahoma and was working on an oil rig. The guy in my row was from Atlanta but he was headed to Tel Aviv, Israel. Finally the woman sitting next to me was booked on to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. We were in Row 11 – so we got off the plane rather quickly.

You just follow the yellow signs toward Luggage Pickup and Arrivals Hall. Of course Passport Control came before the rest. Only had to wait for two people at the Passport checkpoint. A breeze. By the way, there’s no immigration card to fill out. Luggage came out rather quickly.

Next task – buy a train ticket from Amsterdam Schipol to Amsterdam Centraal Station. They go for $4.30 Euros which is just $5.55 in US dollars. Very quick trip – 15 minutes as well as a bargain. Not only that – it is a down escalator at Schipol and there’s a lift or down steps at Amsterdam Centraal Station which is very busy and bustling both inside and out.

The train platforms are above the concourse,

This isn’t the airport to Centraal Station train – but the actual one looks like this

so after you arrive you go down stairs to ground level. And that’s where it gets a little tricky. I wanted to buy a 5 day bus/tram pass so I needed to find the tourist info building (which also sells the bus/tram passes) which isn’t in the train station proper it was small building with an orange roof

and I had to ask two policemen because the signs weren’t helpful. The five-day pass cost $25 Euros. A bargain seeing how on the first day which was really only a half day = I took three separate bus rides – to the apartment and then to go out for dinner. A single day ticket is good for one hour at a cost of Euro 2.60, so the five-day pass – good for 120 hours – already seemed a bargain.

The trams look like this – these are in front of the Amsterdam Centraal Station

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Welcome to Nashville

Welcome to Nashville

Readers, this is guest post. While the The Arts does travel well, watching American television while in Amsterdam, NL is not so easily accomplished. Since I was not able to watch the opening show of the ABC-TV series Nashville, which started Wednesday October 10 at 10:00 p.m. , I asked regular commenter, fd, if he would like to write a guest post introduction to the series. He agreed, and sent this to me for publication. So here we go –

ABC’s new hit drama, Nashville, created by Callie Khouri, the theater major dropout who won the Best Screenplay Oscar for her very first screenplay (Thelma & Louise), is the story of two female country music stars who are hog-tied into touring together. Problem is they despise each other.

Sound familiar? Like NBC’s prime-time musical drama, Smash, Nashville is a no-holds barred talent competition that’s a lot juicier than what you find on reality TV shows like The Voice. As on Smash, the music is awesome. But, it’s the dramatic fireworks between the two country divas that make this show a winner. The major difference is we’re a long way from Broadway, or even Off-Broadway. In fact, it’s Opryland!

In Episode 1, the older gal Rayna James (three-time Emmy nominee, Connie Britton), whose record sales are slumping, is bridled by business trends to be the opening act for the chart-topping younger songstress, Juliette Barnes, (Teen Choice award winner, Hayden Panettiere). When the suits who own her record label offer her second billing on Barnes’ tour, Rayna tells them how to promote the pair-up, “one sings and the other sounds like a feral cat.”

But even if Juliette could sing like a nightingale, Rayna wouldn’t be a big fan of her new partner. For one thing, Juliette is trying to steal Rayna’s ex-boyfriend and lead guitarist Deacon (Charles Esten), offering him a chance to write songs with her and make some music together.

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Update:I’m off to explore –


Boss – two episodes of the series 2nd season remain. I will miss the October 12th episode, and I’ll be delayed in getting to watch the finale on the 19th. I plan to cover these episodes – but I will be late.

Nashville – the new ABC music/drama series begins on Wednesday, October 10th at 10:00 PM. At that time I’ll be in Amsterdam, NL, and then, I’ll be in Paris. So I’ll miss the second episode as well. My coverage will begin in-depth with the third episode. I’ve chosen this series as I had a lot of fun doing the recaps and commenting on NBC’s Smash last winter and spring.

House of Cards – this is a new TV series premiering on Netflix on February 1st. Yup, it is politics again – but this time, it is not from the perspective of a cable TV news show. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright head up the cast. This is a USA version of the British TV series of the same name. David Fincher will direct the first two episodes.

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