Movie Mondays ~ Monday, June 3, 2019

Movie Mondays ~ Monday, June 3, 2019

What is it with me and all of these documentaries lately? Sheesh. I knew I loved the genre but I am definitely having major cravings on a regular basis for a little non-fiction in my flicks. This week, I managed to check out two documentaries – both from HBO, one from this year and the other from 2018. Both of them are definitely focused on the future, but one is more optimistic in its approach and the other, a bit dismal in its perspective. As always, thanks for reading! ~ Chris K.



FILMS VIEWED WEEK OF 05/27/2019 – 06/02/2019

(click on images to enlarge on the screen!)


69. Running with Beto

Documentary (2019)
Beto O’Rourke, Amy O’Rourke, Cynthia Cano, Chris “not Captain America” Evans


Right out of the gate, a few disclaimers. Yes, I am a proud registered Dem, No, I’m not a Beto O’Rourke supporter. In fact, I would say that going into the film, if anything, I was not a fan of the then-Senatorial candidate for Texas and now-Presidential candidate for the Democratic ticket.  By the time I was done watching this candid documentary, I did feel like I had a better sense of who O’Rourke is as a candidate, dad, husband and boss. I can’t say that it’s made me suddenly want to vote for him as the next presidential Democratic candidate but I understand him more. One aspect that truly surprised me was his demeanor when he is in work mode and working alongside his staff. Is it too callous of me to say that as a boss during some of the more stressful times, he’s a bit of a jerk? If 9 things go well, he seems to like to needle his staffers about the 10th that did not go as planned instead of celebrate the 9 that did. That surprised me. He had struck me as a big-time optimist, but I didn’t take that away from the real Beto when he was not on the podium.


I appreciated the film’s openness to depict Beto just as he is — warts and all. I appreciate HIS and HIS FAMILY’S willingness to basically bare all. That can’t be easy to go back and watch it now, after the fact. Overall, there is a down to earth nature about the candidate that I can see why others are attracted to him – and that crosses gender, age, race and ethnicity. (As I said, just don’t work for him, because he is a bit A-type! Heh.)  We see him try to juggle family life while running for office and making public appearances (not an easy feat). It saddened me to hear one of the candidate’s sons openly say he couldn’t wait until it was all over soon after he described how it used to be just his dad wasn’t around but lately, his mom wasn’t around much either. Clearly the madness of political campaigning and the breakneck pace it requires got the best of the whole family. Sometimes even patient wife and true partner Amy O’Rourke seems “over” this whole running for office thing. You almost wonder to yourself was she relieved when he didn’t win. (I’m sure she would never say so publicly, but I have to wonder…)


If you watch the news even a smidge, you know he gave Republican incumbent Ted Cruz a tight race but didn’t pull off an upset. And earlier this year, he threw his hat into the Presidential ring. I won’t tell you that this documentary changed my mind either way about a candidate but it did let audiences in on the hectic life of those running for political office, of the scrutiny they experience at every turn about each word said or action taken, and the physical and emotional investment devoted as a volunteer or campaign staffer. It is definitely eye-opening.

Score: 85






70. The Truth about Killer Robots

Documentary (2018)
Leon Gonzalez, Hiroshi Ishiguro, Zheng JiaJia


When I read the title of this one, I HAD to see it. How could I not? Killer Robots? And The Truth about… implying there is a dark force somewhere hiding what’s really happening with these cyborgs. Sigh. It sounded fascinating. And it has its moments. Like when we meet up with a Chinese factory worker who shares that there used to be 800 employed in her area where there are now just 100. No need for people when the robots can do the work for you. Or when we watch a pizza assembly line run entirely by robots — except for this one position the robots can’t seem to get right – using the spatula to lift up the pizza pies and place them in different direction on the belt. We see a worker fulfilling this duty while an overdub informs us that they are currently making some tweaks to a robot being manufactured that will soon be taking care of that responsibility, too. We watch her knowing that she will be out of a job in a matter of time.


The film is stark and honest with its cold, hard reality of various job settings using robots at an increasing pace and quickly disintegrating the teamwork concept and company morale. But where do these killer robots come in? I do think after finishing the film that the “killer” term is as much figurative as it is literal since it is having such a detrimental effect on employment and killing job opportunities but there are also stories about robots who seem to lose control and accidentally kill a human working in conjunction with the robot, particularly in the auto industry where there is a growing dependence on robots across the globe including Germany where the documentary starts at a Volkswagen plant.


In the film, we also learn about stories that have been reported in the news — and others kept a little more quiet — that seem to suggest there could be some truth to a prevailing fear that robots could become too smart and destroy the very people who built their intelligence.  Some sectors are using robots in a way that is also being questioned for its ethical use or appropriateness, including in law enforcement. The film cites one particular highly publicized Dallas case from 2016 during which a ‘bomb robot’ was used to approach a gunman in a standoff to deliver a deadly explosive that ended up killing him.


I wish I could say the film’s delivery was as interesting as some of the examples I’m mentioning here. Sometimes getting to the next part of the story can be a little lumbering in the documentary’s storytelling approach and the robot narrator’s voice is downright creepy (HBO’s marketing writers put in the description ‘eerie’ but I insist that it’s creepy!), but it doesn’t take away from the overall interesting topic. This won’t be the most fascinating documentary filmmaking you are going to watch, but it is a flick worth checking out if the subject matter intrigues you as it did me.


Score: 82







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