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Movies

‘Parasite’ — Yes, It’s That Good. You Should Watch It

You may have heard some buzz about “Parasite,” the film released earlier this year by acclaimed South Korean director Bong Joon-ho that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It’s on many “Best films of 2019” lists.

I’m here to tell you: Yes, it’s that good.

You should watch it.

I loved one of Bong’s earlier films, the post-apocalyptic “Snowpiercer.”

“Parasite” is a comedic thriller about…well, lots of things. Class, wealth, society, family, fortune, secrets. Especially secrets.

Not only is the plot deliciously surprising, but the cinematography is gorgeous.

And unlike many modern films, it’s not inordinately long, running just over two hours, and is perfectly paced. Highly recommended. In theaters now.

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Movies

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh docu-series ‘Wild, Wild Country’ — Yes, It’s That Good

wild_wild_country_posterI really enjoyed the new Netflix docu-series “Wild Wild Country,” which you may have heard about. It was released last month and has been garnering some positive reviews and tons of online buzz.

It’s the story, told over six, hour-long episodes, of the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his devotees, known as Rajneeshis.

Thousands of the disciples, from both India and many other countries, followed him from India to the U.S., where they built a commune in the early 1980s outside a tiny town in Central Oregon.

The orange-clad followers clashed with locals and authorities before ultimately…well, you’ll have to give it a watch to see how it ends (if you don’t already know).

Some of the things I loved about the series:

  • The directors, Chapman and MacLain Way, manged to portray sympathetically not just members of the Bhagwan cult, but also the town’s residents, with many long interviews in which participants in the saga shared their first-person accounts. (Many were in the twenties or thirties during the time the events took place, so are now in their fifties or sixties.)
  • The series contains on a ton of contemporaneous footage, from local TV news accounts that aired at the time to what looks like footage shot by Rajneeshis themselves to document goings on at their commune.
  • The music is fantastic, really adding emotional content. (Some reviews I’ve read say the music is too overbearing, but I quite liked it.)

I’ve been digging around to try to learn more about the movement (don’t worry — just out of curiosity, not in a desire to join it!). Here are some resources I’ve found:

Update, April 7: Columbia Journalism Review has an interview with Les Zaitz, the Oregonian investigative reporter featured in the series.

He reveals what it was like report on the story, recounts his trip to India to learn more about Bhagwan and Sheela, and more. The close quote:

I’ve always been struck by just how dangerous and evil some of these people were. I’m not sure the Netflix series has accurately captured that. This was not just a group of people that lost their way. This was a very dangerous group that put a lot of lives at risk.

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Movies Tech

‘Arrival’: Yes, It’s That Good

Arrivalposter

You may have heard that “Arrival,” a thriller about an alien invasion based on a Ted Chiang short story, has been nominated for eight Oscars.

Yes, it’s that good.

Amy Adams, the protagonist, plays a linguist brought in by the U.S. government to try to communicate with mysterious beings, who have landed in pods around the world.

Longtime readers know how much I love sci-fi.

But this isn’t a hard-core, technologically heavy film. It’s beautifully shot, with exceptional sound, and is really more about life, time and — of course — language.

It’s not a perfect film, if you ask me, but it’s very good.

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Movies

Are Uncontacted Tribes Increasingly Emerging from the Wilderness?

2016 12 30 amazon

I recently watched a short, thought-provoking documentary on Netflix from U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 called “First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon.

It contains some captivating footage of uncontacted tribes in the Amazon, on both the Peruvian and Brazilian sides, emerging from the wilderness.

(Uncontacted people are those with no direct contact with civilization. In parts of the Amazon, laws set aside lands for such people, and forbid outsiders from interacting with them.)

The filmmaker, Angus Macqueen, has written online that the uncontacted people in the documentary have seemed motivated to change their behavior — to venture out of the wilderness — due to:

  1. A need to flee encroachment from illegal loggers and drug runners
  2. A desire to obtain materials they don’t have, like axes and clothing

In addition to raising ethical questions about governmental policies that intentionally keep such people isolated, where they lack basic medical care and often starve, I was wondering:

Are we seeing this phenomenon elsewhere? Is there something larger at play in our increasingly globalized the world? Are other uncontacted people also emerging?

I did a little research, and estimates suggest most uncontacted peoples are located in:

  1. the Amazon, and
  2. New Guinea

The film covers a pocket of the first, but as for the second, I haven’t been able to find any reports of uncontacted people in Asia increasingly venturing out of their lands.

This suggests to me that rather than a global trend, the film shows behavior that is indeed unique to the Amazon.

But maybe I’m missing something? I’ll have to keep investigating.

If you have any thoughts, drop me a line (n @ newley dot com) or leave a comment below.

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Movies

Top Lesser-Known (but Good) Sci-Fi Movies of 2016

Gizmodo has a list of good sci-fi films you might have missed this year.

The only one I’ve seen here is “Midnight Special,” which I thought was solid but not earth-shattering.

I must say I was surprised to see “Swiss Army Man,” which I mentioned back in April, listed here. I just couldn’t get past the trailer. But maybe it’s worth a watch?