February 21, 2018

Manhunt: Unabomber on Netflix

I vaguely remember news reports on the Unabomber, but the new Netflix series Manhunt: Unabomber takes you into the world of Ted Kaczynski, the infamous man who sent mail bombs from 1978 to 1995. Don’t view the series as true history however, since FBI agent Jim Fitzgerald, well-played by actor Sam Worthington, is a composite character who never actually interviewed Kacznyski.

As far as drama goes, you will be sucked into this compelling tale with Paul Bettany creating an amazing portrait of the genius serial killer. The cast is fine throughout, but you may be tickled by some of the star turns: Chris Noth as FBI boss Don Ackerman, Janet Lynch as Attorney General Janet Reno, Michael Nouri as Bob Guccione and Brian d’Arcy James as evil professor, Henry Murray.

My only quibble is with the time jumps between 1995 and 1997 which are sometimes confusing and leave some unanswered questions. The flashbacks to earlier decades are much easier to follow. Nevertheless, the 8 episode mini-series created by Andrew Sodroski, Jim Clemente and Tony Gittelson might be worth your time if you like crime drama and exceptional acting.

As we see electronics and artificial intelligence creep into every aspect of our daily lives, Kacynzski’s Manifesto can be read today as a cautionary tale, not only for what he was saying, but for making clear that there is no message that justifies deadly means.

And I must admit that I have looked at my delivered packages in a somewhat different light since watching Manhunt: Unabomber.

Art Institute of Chicago exhibit: Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test

There is a most unusual and fascinating exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago right now, Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test.

This large installation in Regenstein Hall illustrates the dramatic shift from Imperial Russian design to that of the Soviets after 1917. Literally everything was impacted by this cultural tsunami. Graphic design on posters, art direction in theaters and in film, fabric, dishes, furniture, mobiles and paintings all reflected this new vision.


Some of my favorite things in the exhibit include a replica of Rodchenko’s Workers Club including a black and red chess set, a 2 1/2 minute recording of Lenin giving a speech, a space that resembles an agitprop train compartment that features Soviet cartoons and documentaries as well as a 1926 exhibition room that features paintings by Piet Mondrian, Francis Picabia and El Lissitzky.

If you choose to be immersed in this stark and geometric world that has style implications in the present day, you have until January 15, 2018 to catch Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

When a book wins the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and is a choice for Oprah’s Book Club, notice must be taken. Such is the case with The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, an epic novel about Cora, a slave on a Georgia cotton plantation.

The book has been on my “to read” list since its 2016 release, but I must admit, the topic of slavery was a tough issue for me to tackle; likewise, the Holocaust. How can anyone justify such inhumanity to other sentient beings? Whitehead, however, allows the reader to think about these issues through the eyes of slaves, slave owners, slave hunters and people on both sides of Abolition.

The Underground Railway is fiction with a touch of magical realism. In Whitehead’s world before the Civil War, the railroad is an actual transportation system with secret stations, tracks and volunteers both black and white who keep the conveyance running.

The novel has much in common with The Iliad and other ‘grand journey’ stories, but Whitehead has imbued the writing with emotional scenes and unforgettable character depictions. Cora encounters villains and heros alike on her flight from slavery.

I often found myself close to tears while listening to this masterful work. Yes, I used an audio book to experience The Underground Railroad.

However you choose to experience this award-winner, I urge you to consider reading The Underground Railroad. I plan to get a paper copy in the near future so I can further appreciate the fine writing of Colson Whitehead.

And what a movie this will make! Spielberg or Oprah, have either of you bought the movie rights yet?

Mind Hunter on Netflix

Netflix recently premiered an original series called Mind Hunters which dramatizes the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s initial research into serial killers. Strange to think that before the 1960s, the FBI had yet to compile data on individuals who had murdered multiple people. Richard Speck, Ted Bundy, Son of Sam and many others changed all of that.

Jonathan Groff of Glee and Hamilton fame plays special agent Holden Ford who begins to interview incarcerated murderers and sees some patterns in upbringing, methods and thought processes. The behavior science team is rounded out by partner Bill Tench played by Holt McCallany (see the post on his mother, Julie Wilson) and Anna Torv who is the academic who comes up with a questionnaire to show some commonality in the crimes of these killers.

The murders mentioned are gruesome and true so this is not a series for the faint of heart. Some reviewers have said the pacing is slow, but the ten episodes kept my attention. As a fan of crime drama, I found this dramatic history of FBI “profiling” to be incisive.

Dior Exhibit in Paris

If you are interested in fashion and happen to be in Paris before January 7, 2018, run, do not walk to the Dior exhibit at the Louvre’s side museum, Les Arts Décoratifs.

If you don’t buy a ticket in advance, bring an umbrella and a friend or a book because you will most likely wait up to an hour outdoors for admittance. Le tout Paris and female tourists of all ages are flocking to this fantastic homage to the fashion house of Dior.

Not only are the gowns and accessories breath-taking, but the presentation of the fashions is innovative. One large glass panel has a pointillist photo that disappears when the lights are raised to expose the elegant dresses inside the vitrine. Another gigantic glass showcase features a profusion of single-color items such as hats, miniature dresses, jewelry, shoes and other accessories. One follows groupings of red, pink, yellow, green, blue, silver and white items that absolutely delight the eye.

Another stunning display has a ceiling of white leaves that drape above the stunning Dior dresses.

There was another room across the lobby which I did not get to see. Flut alors! The guards are quite firm about leaving the museum at closing time.

Sorry to say that very few men can be seen attending this exhibit. Their loss because the ingenuity of Christian Dior and the subsequent house designers along with the breathtaking museum displays make this a uni-sex crowd-pleaser.

Designs by Raf Simons, John Galliano, Christian Dior and Marc Bohan in a chromatic display in the Dior exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs.

For more information and ticket purchase:
https://www.dior.com/couture/en_us/the-house-of-dior/exhibitions

Lincoln In the Bardo by writer George Saunders

One of my favorite fans recommended the novel Lincoln in the Bardo, an unusual and poetically moving work by George Saunders.

Saunders was impelled to write a book about the death of Abraham Lincoln’s beloved son, Willie when he learned that newspaper accounts reported Abe creepily and heartbreakingly visited his son’s crypt to hold the recently dead body. Imagine the Pieta with Lincoln and Willie as stand-ins.

Saunders’ book takes place over one evening in the “bardo,” a limbo-like place between life and death and uses true history citations as well as fictional footnotes.

Another book-loving friend found the middle of the book to be tedious, but I found it to be one of the most creative pieces of writing that I have encountered in quite a while. James Joyce’s Ulysses comes to mind as we become privy to the thoughts of Lincoln, Willie and several other “sick-box” residents.

Those who want a speedy plot-driven read should look elsewhere. If you’re up for a challenging mixture of fact and fiction, beautifully and adventurously written, consider diving into the Bardo.