Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2019.11
These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of around 1400 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.
- Rotten S02 E01 (2019) — 8/10
The first is about the rise of avocados in both California and Chile. The avocado craze is driven partially by bizarre trends, but also by the farmers and larger companies who profit from it. With much more money in it, gangs got involved in Mexico. Californian farmers are suffering because of the changing climate—but avocados never grew natively in California.
The farmers are upset that they no longer have enough water in the desert to grow their tropical fruits. The U.S.‘s demand for avocados has grown—as has the world’s. Now that there’s so much money in it, not just gangs, but large corporations, are involved. This naturally makes everything better.
And, once again, we’re fighting about who has more right to grow a fruit whose worldwide popularity is a marketing invention. It’s not an easy fruit to grow, so places like Europe import the useless thing from far-off countries like Mexico and Chile. An ecological nonsense.
- Rotten S02 E02 (2019) — 8/10
This episode is about wine in France, particularly the Languedoc region, which tries to innovate in wine-making and bring less-expensive wine to more consumers. There is a terrorist organization called CRAV in France that torches vineyards that don’t conform to their ideas of wine-making.
It’s quite interesting and provides a lot of detail about how mass-market wine is actually produced. Even though we still buy in bottles, 60-70% of wine is “bulk” wine, which is produced in giant tanks, not casks. And it’s bottled in factories, not at the vintner’s. Naturally, these wines aren’t necessarily worse—they’re definitely less expensive and more than good enough for a table wine.
However, there is a lot of fraud, with more than a little wine deliberately mislabeled. One of the main people they interview is this bad-ass bulk-wine grower who gets interviewed in his sex club. There are a lot of other people with completely fucked-up views on globalization: that the French vintners should stop trying to preserve their ways because it’s hopeless in an “open” and “free market” world built by globalized companies. That the French are in competition with Spanish wine labeled as French wine is just how business is done. One lady says that the French shouldn’t be against the Spanish, but against the Chinese, who are the real danger. Lovely.
There seems to be no room anymore for just keeping a business non-globalized. It all has to grow or compete against international and giant companies with deep pockets, able to strangle you until you go out of business. That’s how it is. If people don’t want what you’re selling because it’s temporarily slightly more expensive, then you’ll be steamrolled out of the way. Get with the program and stop whining. And once it’s not profitable anymore, the big companies move on, leaving the market open, but with no business left to fill it.
The final segment is about the growth of Chinese wines and the many women involved in the business side. There are some French who are working with the Chinese, though, and see opportunity rather than enemies. In the end, the local people will lose out, I think. That they identify with their land, with their towns, won’t matter. They’re not great people, but neither will they ever be given the chance to be left alone. Their livelihood will be eradicated and they’ll be on the dole and called lazy. The circle of life.
Saw it in French, English and Chinese (no idea if Cantonese or Mandarin) with English subtitles.
- Rotten S02 E03 (2019) — 8/10
This episode is about water supplies: in the States, the bottled-water mania that has largely replaced tap water. In places like Nigeria, water is a rare commodity that has already created markets for bottled water while public systems are deliberately neglected because it only affects the poor.
These people spend most of their lives just trying to get clean water, often walking hours per day, sometimes crossing large highways. Lagos is a nightmarish city of plastic garbage (90% of its trash just sits in the streets and floats on dirty streams to the oceans). It’s nice to see that western companies see profit in it, by selling bottled water in plastic bottles to them. Instead of letting public water succeed, money is only invested if money comes back out. There is no notion of water as a human right (even though it’s enshrined as such in the UN Declaration of Human Rights). Companies have convinced people that tap water is dangerous.
Even back in the States, where there is a huge infrastructure for public water, propaganda has convinced people not to drink it. It’s almost free, more efficient and better than bottled water, but they’re losing. This is our system. This is the cliff from which we are leaping. Are these people not at all worried that they’re being manipulated into hating tap water by the companies who want to sell them bottled water? The bottled-water companies actually end up selling them tap water in a bottle at a 4000% markup anyway. The final ten minutes convinces you of nothing else than that people are fucking idiots.
- Rotten S02 E04 (2019) — 8/10
This episode is about sugar. To harvest sugarcane, you burn the fields, then harvest the cane left over. You can keep the fields producing for 7-8 years, if you do it right. A worker is paid $2 per ton; the farmer makes $35 per ton from the processing plant. The cane is ground up to get the cane juice out and separate the impurities, then they add crystals to start the crystallisation process, after which they dry it and get the white sugar we all know.
Mexico produces a lot of sugar and they have their eye on the US market. It’s not a free market, though. It’s tightly controlled and the U.S. government buys or sells sugar to keep the price stable (and much higher than in the rest of the world). Naturally, it’s not enough to make a ton of money in a fixed market—most of the companies are monopolies and don’t pay their workers, even after summary judgments. There are really only a couple of families from the States who own everything (including the workers, who are basically on slave plantations trapped in their small enclaves). In particular, giant U.S.-owned plantations in the Dominican Republic use a lot of Haitian workers who essentially have no rights.
One Dominican activist has gotten pensions for older employees—so many have been working for over four decades—but not from the Central Romana farm (owned by the U.S. family). Specifically, the empire founded by Alfonso Fanjul, who came from Cuba and took advantage of the draining of the northern Everglades. He and his family exert a tremendous influence to avoid paying taxes and to simultaneously make the taxpayer pay for cleaning up his company’s messes.
When the Army Corps of Engineers converted the norther Everglades, it diverted the freshwater from the rest of the Everglades, which spiked the salinity levels everywhere else, killing sea grass and scattering or starving all of the biota that depended on it. Fixing this mistake has a solution, but the sugar companies are against it. And the sugar companies get their way.
Saw it in English and Spanish with English subtitles.
- Rotten S02 E05 (2019) — 8/10
This episode is about chocolate. Each cacao tree bears about 30 pods per year, which makes about a kilogram of chocolate. One pod contains 40 seeds, in a sticky pulp. You leave this all out on the forest floor for 6-7 days, to ferment. This bonds the pulp to the beans and makes it possible to make the chocolate that we know. Then you dry the coated beans in the sun.
Though Switzerland and Belgium are known for their chocolate, Ghana and Côte D’Ivoire are nearly the sole providers of cacao. Cöte D’Ivoire accounts for 40% of world production and cacao is 2/3 of their GDP. But they don’t control the price: New York markets do. They have the resource everyone wants, but somehow they’re enslaved to the west. Economic colonialism. They live on medieval farms, using the same techniques as 100 years ago. There’s no incentive to upgrade when you just have so many slaves. As with cane sugar,
This is chocolate’s dark secret, but as someone says in the movie, “no-one knows how to fix it.” That is, no-one is willing to give up their ludicrous profits. The industry makes over 100 billion dollars per year. The farmers are in squalor; their countries among the poorest in the world. The average farmer makes less than a dollar per day (less than a living wage).
Despite this, the demand for chocolate drives farmers to use not only their own children on plantations (OK) but importing other children as child/slave labor on their plantations (not OK). With space at a premium, farmers started burning down protected forests and planting cacao trees. The Ivory Coast has lost 85% of its forests in the last 30 years because of this practice.
Chocolate is a pyramid scheme that depends on screwing the farmers that harvest cacao. There are so many layers of middlemen that the poorest are forced to sell at below-market rates—and sometimes aren’t ever paid at all. Some haven’t been paid in years. They have no choice but to keep working, to keep trying. Even for the middlemen, it’s very dangerous. It’s a cash economy…and everyone knows that they just got paid and are walking around with several-years worth of wages in their pockets. Kidnapping and murder are not uncommon.
The final stage is to deliver the beans to warehouses, where they are sorted, settled, dusted and re-bagged for export. After that, the bags are loaded onto pallets, in containers and on giant container ships, sometimes hundreds of thousands of tons. At this point, it’s the cocoa traders who have the most power. There are about 10 cocoa traders who control everything (the top 3 are Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Olam). No-one else in the chain has a say in the price that they will accept for their goods. In the 1970s, the price peaked at $5,700 per ton. Now it’s 1/3 of that.
With such wild fluctuations, there’s naturally a lot of speculation, fraud and wild trading going on. They discuss one company that was family-owned but wiped itself out with fraudulent speculation (selling beans they didn’t have and couldn’t get; they couldn’t cover). I’m honestly not sure what they expected us to think of that family: they’re fraudsters who gambled big and lost. Boo hoo.
Even though the beans cost a lot less now, chocolate prices to the consumer didn’t change. Instead, the chocolate industry made $5 billion profit in one year alone.
One company, Tony Chocolonely teamed up with Barry Callebaut to produce end-to-end really fair chocolate (including paying farmers far more than the “market” price). They plan on making chocolate sustainable by 2025. They have a lot of clout, but it’s still unclear whether they will achieve their goal. The Côte D’Ivoire is trying to turn things around on their end, as well, by keeping more of the money inland. There seem to be some decent people involved (in particular the lawyer from New York…didn’t catch his name).
Time to stop eating chocolate, too?
Saw it in English and French with subtitles.
- Barry S01 (2018) — 8/10
This series is about Barry Berkman (Bill Hader), a former Marine back in the U.S. He works as an assassin with Fuches (Stephen Root), shipping around the country, doing as he’s told. Fuches is an abusive handler; he clearly has some sort of dirt on Barry—some sort of leverage—because Barry splits the proceeds 50/50 with Fuches, which seems wildly unfair, considering he does all of the work (except procurement).
Fuches sends Barry on a mission to LA, where he has a crisis of conscience and decides that he wants to be an actor—after bungling a hit on an actor at an actor’s studio, run by Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler). He was supposed to do the hit for a Chechan mob family, but they put out a hit on him, too, when they thought he was bungling it. He takes them out and somehow ends up working for them again.
He meets the phenomenally shallow Sally (Sarah Goldberg), who seduces him, then drops him like a hot rock when she realizes that he might not be interested in talking about her all of the time. All along, he’s still doing jobs for Fuches and Goran (Glenn Fleshler) and Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan), who’s one of the best things about this show.
Basically, Barry’s trying to become an actor and trying to get out of being a hitman. He’s thwarted at every turn—most recently by an old Marine buddy of his and two others that get dragged in as well. Everything goes tits-up and he ends up killing his friend, to keep him from ratting him out.
Things wrap up pretty well at the end of the first season, with Barry dumping Fuches, Barry wiping out Goran and co., leaving NoHo Hank to take over the Chechan mob and team up with the Bolivians. At the end of the season, the police chief has a press conference in which he sums up the season completely incorrectly, but compares it to the film Yojimbo (in which two warring gangs decimated each other).
On the acting side, Sally continues to be devastatingly non-aware of her own shallowness and Barry continues to not notice or care. Bill Hader’s writing is quite good; his acting as well. Man, is he evil to California and Hollywood hopefuls (in the form of Sally).
- GLOW S02 (2019) — 9/10
We find the ladies having won the right to a season of television, but things are not so easy.
Sam the director (Marc Maron) is a miserable shit who sees enemies everywhere, especially in Ruth/Zoya (Alison Brie). Debbie/Liberty Bell (Betty Gilpin) is struggling with being a producer and a single mom and self-centered. Welfare Queen/Tammé Dawson (Kia Stevens) struggles with the deeply racist character she portrays. Shiela the She-wolf (Gayle Rankin) struggles with unexpected popularity and attention from rabid fans. Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel) is in danger of losing her leading role in her own series and comes back to GLOW, a demotion, but better than not working.
Ruth gets propositioned by the head of the network and runs away when he’s in the bathroom. For this, Debbie yells at her, telling her that that’s how Hollywood works, that you have to play along—not sleep with him, but make him think you would if you could but you can’t—finishing with “the one time you can’t keep your legs shut, you screw us all.”
The show is moved to the 2AM time slot, ostensibly because male wrestlers are more powerful and interesting, but really because Ruth refused to sleep with the owner of the network. The ladies buckle down and step up their game and put on a tremendous show, but it ends with Liberty Bell snapping Zoya’s ankle accidentally on purpose in a drunken/coked-out haze.
The whole gang goes with Ruth to the hospital where she’s diagnosed with a fracture and has a screaming match with Debbie/Liberty Bell, airing a lot of laundry. Sam tells Ruth that he needs her and they go for broke and make a complete variety show, with music videos, a storyline with real acting, and, of course, wrestling.
Then Sam’s baby mama shows up to take Justine back, but she lets her go to her prom that she’s just attending ironically. She doesn’t want to go back and threatens to run away to New York with Billy (her punker boyfriend). Sam pulls her back from the precipice, then has a nice dance with Ruth before she leaves in a rush.
Bash and Debbie are at a convention, drumming up investors with an awesome whisper campaign that ends up with them inviting several to a live taping of the final show. Brittanica needs to get married to stay in the country, so the show centers around her marrying a fan for a green card. Bash’s lover dies of AIDS and he’s devastated…to distract himself, he jumps in and marries Brittanica instead.
The TV channel has the television rights to their characters, so none of the other producers can pick up the show. Instead, the local strip-club owner who knows Sam (he’s a customer and they both chaperoned Justine’s prom) says he thinks he can take their show to Vegas instead.
- Rotten S02 E06 (2019) — 8/10
This episode is about marijuana edibles. It starts in the States, with the new market for edibles taking off—but the dosing is unpredictable and conflicting or overly restrictive laws prevent vendors from improving the quality and predictability of the product.
Smoking is on the way out, obviously, because of lung damage. But ingested THC takes long to have an effect, but is then a more intense high with a longer duration. Ingested means that the extraction of toxins is up to the liver—so, better for the lungs, but not as great for the liver.
Most local laws (e.g. in Holland and also in Switzerland) allow selling, but not wholesale or even mass-retail production. People should basically be growing their own instead of industrializing. However, THC is an acknowledged medication, so production with proper dosing is paramount. There is not enough medical research on the exact efficacy of marijuana for medical purposes, but anecdotally (and also in some studies), it seems to work on suppressing nausea and promoting appetite.
Now we switch back to the States, which even Holland looks to as the home of the “Green Rush”. They interview a lady who says that the normal dose is 10-30mg of THC per day and some products have up to 1000mg in them. People generally dose too high—just like alcohol, no? They’re talking about “taking too much” like nobody’s ever heard of overdoing it at the bar with shots. Now that THC products are getting so powerful—and edibles allow ingesting much more at once—potheads are finally getting hangovers. Schottrundi!
Then there’s all of the horror stories of how people have fallen to their deaths or shot themselves while super-high on edibles. Compared to alcohol, an absolute drop in the bucket.
In the States, it’s legal for medical use in 33 states, legal for recreation in 10 states and not legal at all at the federal level. It makes it even hard to do lab-testing to verify potency and labeling. With so many conflicting laws, there’s room to cheat and falsify everywhere: with labs being paid by vendors, there’s an incentive to misrepresent potency to yield a more valuable product.
Then there’s the delivery method: in Holland and in America, an edible is almost always candy or chocolate or cakes. This raises the issue immediately about luring children into taking drugs. One doctor said she doesn’t understand how you can’t put Joe Camel on a pack of cigarettes, but it’s perfectly legal to sell gummy bears with drugs in them. An excellent point.
CBD usage is also on the rise. It’s credited with curing pretty much everything, but there’s literally no scientific evidence to back it up. CBD is extracted from hemp and has no psychoactive effect. The effective dose is apparently about 300-600mg per day, but most products are dosed much lower, at around 30mg. As with THC, there is a ton of leeway and room for cheating and fraud. You don’t know what you’re taking because there’s no regulation, no testing and no agency in charge of it.
As in Holland, the US also has problems with extracts: it’s basically illegal to make them, despite the improved and more-accurate dosing. Also, with THC being legal only in some states, there’s the problem of inter-state export. Up to 80% of Oregon’s crop is liquified into extracts and exported to the East Coast, where it’s not yet been legalized in many states.
In the States, it’s kind of a Wild West: companies doing an unregulated and half-assed job of making the transition from illegal drug-dealing to scaling up to a legal industrial-level organization. But there are no tests, no guarantee of cleanliness (they wear snoods for hair and beards, but it’s not required).
Saw it in English and Dutch with English subtitles.
- 1922 (2018) — 8/10
Thomas Jane stars as Wilfred James, a smallholding farmer with 80 acres in Hemingford Home, Nebraska. He lives with wife Arlette and his son Henry. Arlette’s father has just died and she’s inherited his 100 acres. She sees the opportunity to sell the depressing farm that she hates and move to Omaha to open a dress shop. Wilfred and Henry wonder what they would do in the city.
Wilfred has grown to hate his wife and her spitefulness and he works to turn her son against her. Wilford pretends to give in to Arlette and let her throw a party. She gets very drunk and he carries her upstairs to her bed, where she passes out. Wilford and Henry cut her throat and let her bleed out. They dump her in the dry well behind the house.
Henry is consumed with guilt while Wilford is … not. However, strange things start to happen—whether in Wilford’s head or for real. There are rats in the well, feasting on Arlette. Wilford finds them in the barn, chewing the cow’s udders, having come in through a drainpipe that leads to the old well. Wilford throws a cow down the well as an excuse to fill it in and throw the police off of his scent.
Henry and Shannon get pregnant, but Wilford and her father forbid it, sending her to a home for wayward girls to have the child. Henry runs away to become a thief and takes Shannon on the road to become the Sweetheart Bandits.
Wilford learns all of this from his wife, who visits him as a corpse and, instead of killing him, whispers the stores in his ear. He’d been bitten in the hand by a rat a while before and the festering wound may have led to delirium…or perhaps it was real. At any rate, Wilford loses the hand. He can no longer run his farm, so he tries to sell it to Shannon’s father, who wants nothing to do with him (his daughter is dead and his wife has left him). He is forced to sell to the pig farmers who would have sold much more dearly to Arlette, originally.
Wilford ends up working in Omaha at shit jobs, leaving each when the rats find him again. He ends up in a hotel, writing his confession—where we first met him at the beginning of the film. The rats make it through the walls.
- GLOW S03 (2019) — 8/10
The start of the ladies’ Vegas show is overshadowed by the Challenger disaster. Cherry goes back and forth on whether she really wants a baby. She also tries to get her ladies in better shape with showgirl dance classes. Debbie goes through a body-shame crisis while Ruth … doesn’t. But Ruth and Sam have some stuff to work out. Sam and Bash play tennis and Sam starts to wonder about his own health. Bash and Brittanica get their wheels under them as a couple. Justine is getting her movie made and she gets Sam signed on as director—and he puts off celebrating while he hides a heart attack from her.
Cut to a few months later and Cherry has a gambling problem, but solves it (feeling like a network series a bit there), the ladies go camping and are the worst campers ever. Melrose and Fortune Cookie have a shitty-story showdown where the Jewess has her “my grandfather can’t buy a house without a basement or an attic” positively bitch-slapped by Fortune Cookie’s “I lost everyone in my family but my uncle when we barely escaped Cambodia’s Killing Fields”.
Justine and Sam are making her movie and ask Ruth to try out for a part, but then go with someone else. Although Ruth had professed her love for Sam, she now is so conflicted that she can’t even, which only goes to show that you just cannot date the arts. Too much crazy, really. Ruth’s whole being is wrapped up with being an actress which is why she also turns down Debbie’s offer to direct her new wrestling show on Bash’s TV network that he bought in a deal that Debbie stole out from under her wonderful, but ultimately condescending boyfriend (a relationship whose earth is positively scorched).
Carmen (Machu Piccu) is off to wrestle with her brother on the road, Yolanda is a pre-version of an SJW who’s got such a huge chip on her shoulder about everyone constantly failing her purity tests that it’s a wonder she doesn’t walk around in a tight circle. Beirut comes out officially as a lesbian, to no-one’s surprise. Sheila doffs the wolf costume and turns out to be an amazing actress, capable of memorizing and delivering entire plays.
There are some lovely musical numbers and some horrific homophobia (it’s 1986) in the last couple of shows. Oh, and Bash kind of comes out to Brittanica when he ends up making out/fucking the gigolo that she’d hired to make him jealous. He tries to jump right back into the closet though, with mixed results. He confesses to Debbie and they become partners on the aforementioned TV station that will be the set of season 4.
Debbie grew in this season; Ruth didn’t—kind of a lateral move, but that might be her story; Sam was mostly stable, less dickish; Bash grew in power, but diminished personally. A decent season.