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36 Hours (2015)
36 Hours is Okay!
I just watched the Istanbul episode. The episode had nice pacing, cinematography and covered diverse aspects of the city. Kristen Kish and Kyle Martino are attractive hosts who have decent personalities if not totally magnetic. Kyle is the more charming of the two. Kristen adds an air of authority to the dining scenes. (It's too bad Kristen left the kitchen not long after winning Top Chef. It seems that the contestants really want to be celebrities, but c'est la vie.)
These travel shows suffer from their inevitable comparisons to Anthony Bourdain. It might be more fair to compare travel shows to Andrew Zimmern who is a decent and knowledgeable host, but not as celebrated as Bourdain. I still say Bourdain's skills are his disarming wit and his power as a storyteller. He was making insightful political and cultural commentary long before he went to CNN. He also seems to connect with the locals with humanity and a very sincere interest in their cultures.
Most travel hosts are merely guides taking us on what amounts to viewing your friend's travel photos and videos. But hey, I like that sort of thing. I will give 36 Hours a chance.
The Last Emperor (1987)
An Epic - One of the Best of Genre
The Last Emperor is the story of China's tumultuous last century seen through the eyes of it's last emperor who takes over the throne in his infancy. He sees China go through intense change from Conservative Monarchy, Democratic Revolution, WWII/Japanese Occupation, Civil War, Communist Takeover and finally Mao's Cultural Revolution. In the course of these seven decades, his own life goes from immense privilege through much upheaval and tragedy.
From the magnificent beauty of the Forbidden City and the cloistered life behind its walls through the ensuing decades, the screenplay, acting, cinematography and costumes all rise to the level of China's incredible 20th century. Bertolucci is a master storyteller who reveals the tragic personal story of the young emperor while giving a fascinating Chinese history lesson for all the ages.
If you have the slightest interest in Chinese history, the movie will amaze and educate. The fact that China began a major resurgence since the movie's release in 1987 only makes The Last Emperor even more relevant to global audiences. I don't know whether The Last Emperor deserves Top 100 or Top 500, but it certainly deserves much more respect. I think viewers who prefer American themes with faster pacing might be disappointed.
Three Stripes in the Sun (1955)
Enjoyable, Pleasant Film from an Interesting Era
While this wasn't an Oscar movie, I enjoyed this charming film on TCM. I find Aldo Ray a very interesting actor. He defines that 40s/50s rugged charisma (John Wayne-type) that I think lends itself well to the true story of a WWII veteran being touched by a Japanese woman and Japanese orphans. I really didn't know he had romantic leading man roles even though its a bit of a stretch for him at times. The movie is sensitive in its treatment of the cultural differences between the Japanese and Americans without being demeaning or hokey. Although the musical South Pacific touched upon similar themes, this doesn't always seem to be typical of the era.
Mitsuko Kimura was very good and endearing. I wonder of her acting career listed here was actually that limited. Philip Carey, Dick Sargent and Chuck Connors all were good in their supporting roles. It's kind of funny watching Chuck Connors pitch in a charity baseball game knowing he played professionally. Even though he did not pitch in the pros, it looks like he was laying off the fastball.
I also find this era in post-war Japan to be fascinating. Here you see some of Osaka and the lights of downtown Tokyo from the early-50s. It's too bad this was not filmed in color because there is some beautiful scenery around the Kyoto era.
Thank you to Alana O'Reilly and the Veterans here who give this story a personal face.