Monday, December 12, 2016

What to Watch Instead of the News

Annamaria on Monday

All Hail, my fellow ostriches.

Many of my friends—here and elsewhere have decided to stick their heads in the sand.  I gave up TV news during the Vietnam War.  I could not watch that travesty.  Now, not even the radio news is a possibility for me.  I cannot allow myself to consume very much news regardless of the source.  I am afraid that what the reporters are writing and talking about will begin to seem normal to me.  I cannot allow that.  Four minutes of radio two or three times a day is about my limit.

On the other hand, I do not want to turn my mind completely away from the dangers our society faces and the diligence it takes to combat the forces recently unleashed in the world.  For complete escape, I go back in time to my own characters.  Or I read other people’s historical fiction.  Right now I am immersed for part of every day in  our own Sujata Massey’s riveting The Sleeping Dictionary.

For my watching pleasure, I have been choosing dramas and comedies with themes relevant the current events.  Here are few sterling suggestions for those who want to focus on the trouble without having to hear the voices of the troublemakers.  These are films about things we all need to be contemplating right now.


This 2005 film, the most contemporary of my selections, takes place in LA shortly after 9/11 and deals with the tensions of a multicultural society, especially one where the authority figures (police and the DA in this case) are terribly flawed.   The film doesn’t have a typical plot; it is more a series of vignettes wherein the lives of a housewife, two carjackers, an Iranian shopkeeper, and a Korean hit-and-run victim crash (literally and figuratively) into one another.  In sum, a brilliant, telling portrait of the pitfalls and opportunities when different classes and cultures collide.

House of Cards

I am talking about the 1990 BBC trilogy, not the more recent American series.   As soon as I first laid eyes on the visage of Mike Pence (during the VP debate), I thought of Ian Richardson’s beyond-brilliant portrayal of British politician Francis Urquhart. (One of the series characters consistently addresses him by his initials for some sorely needed comic relief!)   As the cold, heartless FU rises in power, he addresses the camera, and tells us directly why the nation needs him and his diabolical deeds, all done out of patriotism.  The three seasons are completely riveting and chilling to the marrow of your bones.

To Be or Not to Be

Here is a wonderful dose of satire to relieve the gloom of these other choices.  I watched the Mel Brooks-Ann Bancroft version.  The story is of a troop of Polish players who are trying to survive the Nazi occupation.  The script beautifully treads the line between drama and farce, never letting us forget the horror of hatred, but holding up the self important to the ridicule they so richly deserve.  There is an earlier version starring Jack Benny coming to me soon from Netflix.  I await it with glee.

Judgment at Nuremberg

Stanley Kramer’s 1961 Academy Award-winning film tells of the post-war trial of five Nazi judges for crimes against humanity.  What is really on trial is the self-deception of “patriots” who sacrifice their own moral compass in favor of “the good of the nation.”  The acting is superb.  Maximilian Schell garnered a well-deserved Oscar for his part paying the defense counsel.  And wait until you see Judy Garland convince you that she is a timid German housewife determined to tell the truth on the witness stand.  To say nothing of the greats: Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster.  Here are two scenes that will tell you exactly how relevant the ideas discussed then relate to the world today.


In the second clip, be sure to listen until minute five.  I think the following minute should be playing on a continuous loop wherever the incoming administration comes and goes.

You can watch the entire film on YouTube.

What suggestions do you have for films that can entertain us, but also tell us something about the times we are living through?


  1. Great choices! I loved the original House of Cards - a brilliant actor. Only a confident smart actor can pull you in with talking to the camera giving an intimate feel as if it's just between 'us'. I'm all for escapism and sticking heads in the sand - that said, The Third Man would be my recommendation

  2. I watched the second half of Judgment at Nuremberg recently and it is an amazing film.
    I don't want to take my head out of the sand. Whenever I do, I pick up a mystery and rush out and buy chocolate in any form. My diet has taken a turn to comfort (i.e., junk) food since Nov. 8.
    I've watched some TV mysteries.
    I'd say mysteries or comedies would be in order.
    Mel Brooks' comedies are always good, but I'm staying away from anything even nearing the "f" word (fascism).
    Just keeping my head semi-in-the-sand. But I watch so many TV shows with anchors and comedians who keep bringing up reality, often with wit, even though there is nothing funny about real events now.

  3. Just ordered Sunshine Noir from Book Depository (same price as Amazon, but free shipping).
    Can't wait to read it.
    It got a rave review at Kittling Books.