Charlie Wilson’s War

 

Mike Nichols died recently, and with The Newsroom having just two episodes remaining, I decided I needed to watch Charlie Wilson’s War – a 2007 film directed by Mr. Nichols, and written by Mr. Aaron Sorkin – that somehow had fallen through the cracks without me having seen it.

I went in with high expectations about Tom Hanks as the former US Congressman Charlie Wilson. Would I get an ‘Aw Shucks’ version of Hanks, as if he was reprising Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or maybe his own Larry Crowne.

Would I get an American Idol film star on a par with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, or maybe a Gary Cooper as Meet John Doe.

Or maybe Hanks would come off as a guy somewhere between a Bogie or a Bond?

What I got was Tom Hanks doing a good-looking and slicked up version of Lyndon B. Johnson. A good old boy down from East Texas, a master in the arts of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, a king among deal makers, as well as man who could consume vast quantities of liquor and equally large quantities of women.

He’d party anywhere – in a bar, a bedroom, or even a hot tub in a Las Vegas hotel complete with a handful of bimbos.

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Dicte: A Danish TV Series Now on Netflix

When we meet Dicte (short for Benedicte) she is 16 years old and in the throes of giving birth to a child which turns out to be a baby boy. Within two hours, the baby is taken from her.

Flash forward 24 years. Dicte is now a divorced Mom of a 17-year-old daughter. She has returned to her hometown of Aarhus, Denmark, and is working as a crime reporter for Dag Bladet which happens to be Norway’s 2nd largest tabloid newspaper, and there is a Swedish daily newspaper of the same name. Since we are set up in Aarhus in Denmark – it really doesn’t much matter as the office is quite small and could easily be a bureau office for either paper’s Danish edition.

Any way, we come to learn that Dicte Svendsen has returned to her hometown and is working as a reporter. Long ago, within hours of the birth, her baby was given up for adoption, she was disowned by her parents, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses for bearing an out-of-wedlock child, fathered by a man who was not a Jehovah’s Witness.

She’s very good at her job, and she has a nice house out-of-town, where she and her daughter live. Dicte has two girlfriends – Anne Skov Larsen who works as a midwife at a large Aarhus hospital, and Ida-Marie Svensson, who is married and struggling to become pregnant.

Lars Brygmann as Wagner

Lars Brygmann as Wagner

There’s a photographer at the newspaper who will play a major role in this series, as will Dicte’s daughter Rose, and a pair of police detectives – a man named Wagner, and a lady detective called Bendtsen. Season One consists of 10 Episodes that each run about 45 minutes. And these are 5 stories of two episodes each.

The crimes are drug smuggling, black market body organs, surrogate mothers who are prostitutes, crimes of passion, a kidnapping, and revenge etc.

In a single sentence Dicte can be described as a woman who tries to cope with being a full-time reporter, a part-time sleuth – all while trying to restart her life.

The stories are adaptions of the mystery thrillers written by Elsbeth Egholm, who is a very successful Danish author. Right now Dicte Season One is available on Netflix, and Season Two, which has just concluded its broadcast run in Europe on November 26th is scheduled to become available via Netflix in 2015.

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State of Affairs: Episodes 102 and 103

Well I’ve made it through three episodes of NBC’s replacement for The Blacklist — State of Affairs. The Blacklist will resume on February 1st, 2015 – so, unless we hear differently, State of Affairs is a fill-in while James Spader & Co are on hiatus.

To her credit, star Katherine Heigl has done rather well for herself with this show. She is a definite plus in a show that finds itself in sort of no womans land between Homeland and Madam Secretary. Heigl plays Charleston ‘Charlie’ Tucker – a CIA analyst who is in charge of a team that prepares the Daily Briefing Book for POTUS, or as she’s correctly referred to – President of the United States. POTUS is of course an acronym or short hand.

When President Constance Payton enters onto the Capitol Building’s Congressional floor, she’s announced as The President of The United States. But behind the scenes, and obviously out of Payton’s hearing, the Secret Service, and staffers of all the cabinets use the shorthand POTUS – far fewer syllables if you were counting.

Anyway Charlie has field experience, and obviously knows her way around a myriad of technological assets at her disposal. In the pilot episode, Dennis Boutsikaris had the role of CIA Director Skinner. But beginning in the 2nd episode, Skinner has been replaced by Raymond Navarro as the new CIA Director. Nestor Carbonell has the role.

Right from the jump, literally within a minute or so after he’s been introduced we get this:

Charlie Tucker: Looking forward to working with you, sir.
Director Navarro: You won’t be working with me, you’ll be working for me.

Hellooooo!

Okay, if you have some tension between the lead, Charlie Tucker and her new boss, Director Navarro, that’s fine. But do we have to be hit over the head with it so quickly? Later in the episode, we find out that Charlie is receiving some text messages on her phone, that lead us to believe that some one knows something about that attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, which killed the President’s son who was also Charlie’s fiance.

Okay, I think it is safe to assume that Navarro didn’t get appointed Director of the CIA from doing well in the retail sector. He’s likely been in The Company for a while. So, although through three episodes, we have no indication that he is behind these disturbing phone texts, I’m picking him as the likely person.

Especially since Syd, played by James Remar, who is Charlie’s off-the-books ground operative has not been able to connect another new character Nick Vera, (Chris McKenna) with this phone business. It seems that Nick and Charlie have a past that stretches back at least five years, when Nick was on a CIA black site, a ship in international waters, and his job was interrogations.

In a scene that seems a direct lift from Zero Dark Thirty, Charlie is repulsed by the tactics used by Nick to elicit intel from one Omar Fatah, who in the Pilot was introduced as the world’s number one terrorist. Charlie complains but Nick shuts her off and threatens worse.

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Yours in Truth: A Personal Biography of Ben Bradlee by Jeff Himmelman

Speaking of newsrooms….

Yours in Truth: A Personal Biography of Ben Bradlee became a controversial book when it rolled off the printing presses and onto the shelves of the brick and mortar and the internet book sellers. Its release date was May 8th, 2012. Author Jeff Himmelman took fire from a lot of folks for what he wrote. A guy like me, who had lived through the Watergate days, had never heard of the Himmelman book until I heard  Terry Gross, of the Fresh Air radio show on NPR, (click —>) who replayed excerpts from an interview she did with Bradlee back in 1995. This rebroadcast was just the day after Ben Bradlee had passed away, at the age of 93, near the end of October 2014.

I had knowledge of Bradlee, the famed Executive Editor of the Washington Post, but that probably didn’t have any kind of depth or clarity until after I had seen the film All The President’s Men which was released in 1976. Following the Fresh Air replay of the Bradlee interview, I re-watched All The President’s Men on Amazon Instant Video. This was the last week in October of this year.

Watching that film led to more research, and I ordered the Himmelman book from Barnes & Noble. I have recently completed the book, and following that, I started to look into reading some book reviews. To my surprise, many of the reviews took Himmelman to task, claiming that he had been openly negative about Bradlee in many instances.

It was also true, that Himmelman at times painted many of the people in the book whose circles intersected with Bradlee in less than ideal terms. People like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Richard Nixon, as well Bob Woodward, the investigative journalist. Bradlee who has married three times made available to Himmelman a near lifetime of files, memos, correspondence, and personal letters = both sent and unsent.

I must also state that Himmelman reported early on in the book that Bradlee had told him point-blank that he didn’t give a fuck about what Himmelman wrote.

Bradlee was a Boston Brahmin – a member of a group of old, wealthy New England families of British Protestant origin which were influential in the development of American institutions and culture. Benjamin Crowninshield (now there’s a middle name you don’t hear very often) Bradlee went to Harvard University. In fact, Himmelman tells us that Bradlee was the 55th Bradlee to attend Harvard. Fifty=five members of one family attended Harvard? Wow – to give you an idea about that – I can’t even name 55 members of my own family on both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family. And that’s not even considering who attended Harvard.

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Contempt: The Newsroom Episode 4 Season 3

newsroom-season-3

While Sam Waterston as Charlie Skinner didn’t have quite the same ferociousness as Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, in the classic A Few Good Men, the moment was almost a perfect match. And why not – both were penned by Aaron Sorkin. ‘You messed with the wrong marine’ never came out of Charlie’s mouth, but nonetheless, he had to be restrained from ripping the eyes out of Lucas Pruitt’s head. It was a terrific moment during The Newsroom’s 4th Episode, in this the final season.

This episode was like a roller coaster with its scenes of exhilarating verbal histrionics including rapid-fire exchanges of exquisite excitement, which were followed by moments of utter triviality and boorish behavior.

And yes, as to the boorish – I mean you Jim Harper, you judgemental prick.

I remember, and doesn’t it seem so long ago,  when Will McAvoy used to work as the news anchor on ACN’s News Night who knocked over one straw man after another. Will has performed that task, delivering the news, only once this season, and that was on Opening Night. Since then Will’s only moment in the newsroom’s broadcast studio was when he had a lengthy chat with Neal Sampat. Last night Will was reduced to saying “No sir” to the DOJ’s guy in a Grand Jury room, then in a judge’s chambers, or in a court room. There was a slight variation later, near the very end of the episode, when Will said ‘I do’… but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

The title of the episode was Contempt, which fit perfectly because, to the surprise of no one, in contempt was where Will McAvoy was deemed to be; an inevitable destination for one who uttered ‘No Sir’ that many times.

So following his City Hall wedding to Mackenzie, an ad hoc hitching (so Mack wouldn’t have to testify against Will in the future) executed without a single glitch, an agida free affair unlike any other wedding that came before or will follow after,

Will was manacled and led away by US Marshals. Instead of heading off to the Honeymoon Suite at one of New York’s swankiest hotels, he was marched off to The Tombs, the NYC jail, just a few blocks away.

Yes, as the episode ended, Will would soon be changing into an orange prison jump suit discarding his black Armani wedding suit. Will we ever have Will back in the anchor spot?

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