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Be prepared for a weird series of electoral events in Boston

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Be prepared for a weird series of electoral events in Boston

Go grab a copy of the Boston governing charter — you’re going to need it these next few months, as a bizarre series of happenings could invoke just about every election rule in the tome.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s administration announced that the next elected mayor of Boston will be sworn in on Nov. 16, two weeks after the Nov. 2 general election between City Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George and Michelle Wu.

Janey’s office wrote in the press release — which featured a picture of the three women smiling behind masks at the Francis Parkman House on Beacon Hill — that that will come after the votes are certified on Nov. 15. That is, of course, assuming there’s no recount — like the protracted one in the 2019 at-large council race.

Normally, when Boston elects a new mayor, the person has two months’ time to transition in, with the new term beginning the following January. But in this case, because there’s an acting mayor, the charter say the new elected mayor takes office ASAP, right after the vote is certified.

Janey’s office said it will begin administrative meetings with both candidates in mid-October because of the abridged transition period.

One consequence of the early swearing-in is that it will, no matter what, create a vacancy in an at-large council seat for about a month and a half, as both Wu and Essaibi-George are currently at-large councilors.

For a vacancy in one of the four at-large seats, the charter says the city clerk has 21 days to formally notify the council, which then has 15 days to seat someone. The at-large seats are elected all together, so the charter says the council essentially is supposed to go down the list of the four runners-up until one says they’ll take the gig — though in the unlikely event that no one does the city council gets to choose any registered voter in Boston.

In 2018, when then-Councilor Ayanna Pressley was elected to Congress, the first runner up Althea Garrison, a perennial candidate, took over and served the rest of the term.

How long the new councilor might serve depends how much of the 21 days and how much of the 15 days the clerk and council decide to eat up, City Clerk Maureen Feeney acknowledged on Friday, but she said it’s likely that someone would have that seat at least briefly.

The most recent first runner up is Alejandra St. Guillen, who lost the final at-large spot 2019 by just a single vote after a long and fraught recount. If she were to end up on the council, she’d sit right next to Julia Mejia, who edged her out by that one ballot.

The other runners up in 2019 were Erin Murphy, Garrison and David Halbert — all of whom are on the ballot in the at-large race again this November, so each would have either just won or lost a race for an upcoming two-year term to start in January.

But there could be another at-large vacancy, too, as we get into the more speculative situations possible. Rumors have swirled that Gov. Charlie Baker could appoint At-Large City Councilor Michael Flaherty as Suffolk County District Attorney if current DA Rachael Rollins is confirmed to the post of U.S. Attorney. The U.S. Senate committee is expected to vote on Rollins’ nomination this coming week, potentially sending her name to the full body for a final vote at a later date.

If Rollins were approved and Flaherty appointed, the at-large vacancy rules would kick in then, too — whenever that may be, whether that’s before or after the election, or even in the new council term. Either way, Flaherty, the top vote-getter in the at-large preliminary earlier this month, will show up on the November council ballot, even if he’s the DA.

And your copy of the charter might not stop getting a workout at the end of the calendar year.

District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards is running in the special election for the 1st Suffolk state Senate seat, for which the primary election takes place Dec. 14. If Edwards — who at this point has just one opponent, Revere School Committee member Anthony D’Ambrosio — wins that, the general special election follows about a month later. If — as we continue the Boston political speculation here — she were to win that, she’d quickly resign her city council seat, which covers East Boston, Charlestown and the North End, and take on the new gig.

But believe it or not, the charter handles district-councilor vacancies differently than it does when someone leaves an at large seat. For a district vacancy that takes place more than 180 days before a municipal election — which this one easily would be, as the next normal local contest wouldn’t come until 2023 — that seat then has its own special election.

First there would be a preliminary contest about two months after the vacancy starts, and the top two vote-getters would then move to a general special election 28 days later.

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The City of London Won’t Remove Its Slave Trade-Linked Statues After All

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The City of London Won’t Remove Its Slave Trade-Linked Statues After All
A statue of English merchant and slave trader Sir John Cass in central London on June 10, 2020. TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

In a reversal of its previously decided-upon stance, the City of London has decided to “retain and explain” its statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass, two British politicians with deep ties to the slave trade. Previously, back in January, the City of London had voted to remove the statues, a decision that flew in the face of the UK government; the government has been drawing up new laws intended to protect the very kind of problematic statuary that people are now questioning the validity of. Now, the City of London’s updated strategy seems to very much align with the country’s governmental body.

Doug Barrow, the City of London Corporation Statues Working Group’s Chairman, explained the updated strategy thusly: the tactic, he said, “enables us to acknowledge and address the legacy of our past with openness and honesty, not to try and erase history but to place it in its proper context. We can’t be blind to the fact the history of the City is inextricably linked to slavery, which is a stain on our past and, shockingly, remains a feature of life today in many parts of the world.”

However, earlier in the year, the City of London’s stance was very different. “This decision is the culmination of months of valuable work by the Tackling Racism taskforce, which has taken a comprehensive approach to addressing injustice and inequality,” Catherine McGuinness, the City of London Corporation Policy Chair, said in January. “The view of members was that removing and re-siting statues linked to slavery is an important milestone in our journey towards a more inclusive and diverse City.”

Ultimately, though, the new laws proposed by the UK government stipulate that individuals will need to have documented building consent or permission from the planning department before any statue can be removed.

The City of London Won’t Remove Its Slave Trade-Linked Statues After All

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What You Should Know About the Ozy Media Meltdown

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What You Should Know About the Ozy Media Meltdown
CEO Carlos Watson reversed his decision on shutting down the company. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images)

Many people hadn’t heard of Ozy Media until last month, when a New York Times article revealed the company’s Chief Operating Officer impersonated a YouTube executive on an investment call with Goldman Sachs and called into question the company’s business practices. 

Since then the company — a startup news organization centered around “the new and the next” that raised tens of millions from investors and attracted top talent from major publications and the BBC — has been accused of lying about its metrics, misappropriating PPP loans, and deceiving investors. It announced it was shutting down Friday. Days later, Ozy Chief Executive Officer Carlos Watson—a Goldman Sachs alum and former MSNBC anchor whose own Ozy talk show was at the center of the scandal—changed his mind during a Today Show interview. Now, it is unclear what will come next for the company, particularly as the accusations waged against Ozy and its leadership include illegal activity.

Ozy and the chaos surrounding it may be hard to unpack. We’ve broken down the key pieces of news you should be reading on the scandal and why. 

    1. Goldman Sachs, Ozy Media, and a $40 million Conference Call Gone Wrong,” The New York Times: This is the story that broke the news, and it lays out the key elements of the initial conflict. It explains COO Samir Rao’s impersonation of a YouTube executive, Ozy’s relationship with blue-chip investors, and the debate over the company’s claims about its metrics. 
    2. Carlos Watson’s Today Show Interview: This clip highlights the next major piece of the Ozy saga: Watson’s reversal of the decision to close Ozy. In this interview, Watson declares this scandal to be Ozy’s “Lazarus moment,” referencing the biblical figure who Jesus brings back to life four days after he dies. Watson also discusses why people should trust him given the company’s track record.
    3. Ozy Media’s Deepening Crisis,” Axios: This story breaks down new allegations facing Ozy that the company lied to investors about Google Ventures running their next funding round. 
    4. Ozy Media got $5.7 million in relief loans to help pay employees, but ex-staffers say they didn’t see any of it,” CNBC: This story details yet another potential scandal facing Ozy. It questions what the company did with PPP loans while employees were laid off and pay cuts. 
    5. Goldman Sachs was duped by Ozy Media more than once,” the New York Post: A look into Goldman Sachs’ relationship with Ozy, and how the company’s alleged false claims about their readership may have hurt a separate deal with Goldman. 
    6. Let me tell you what it was like to work at Ozy” The New York Times: This column features an ex-Oxy employee who was fired from the company twice (not, apparently, unusual for Ozy, and part of a story the author, Eugene S. Robinson, told on Substack a few days before). It gives insight into the inner workings of the company, its shortcomings as a business, and what he describes as a “poisonous culture.”

What You Should Know About the Ozy Media Meltdown

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Sorry, ‘No Time To Die’ Does Not Have an End Credits Scene

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Sorry, ‘No Time To Die’ Does Not Have an End Credits Scene
Does Daniel Craig’s No Time To Die have an after credits scene? MGM

No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s fifth and final James Bond film, has finally arrived on American shores. The film caps off a five-picture run for Craig’s iteration of 007 in big, explosive, and ambitious style. No Time To Die is not lacking in the action department, with inventive set pieces and a diverse array of ass-kicking ability that flashes this franchise’s ravenous ambition. At the same time, the movie also manages to be an emotional culmination of Craig’s 15 years in the iconic role.

This recent era of Bond flicks have been defined by their serialized storytelling with narratives that carry over from film to film rather than the standalone chapters of previous Bonds. As a result, there’s a lot of weight behind No Time To Die‘s story, for better and for worse. This helps to both bolster the thematic value of the film, but also leads its plot all over the place in a bit of bloated merit.

Due to the serialized foundation of Craig’s 007 pictures, and the blockbuster trend popularized by Marvel Studios, fans online have been asking if there’s a post-credits scene attached to No Time To Die.

Does No Time To Die Have a Post Credits Scene?

I’m sorry to report that, no, No Time To Die does not include an after credits scene. There is no tease to the next adventure nor is there a sneak peek at what may come next in the franchise. No Time To Die is very much a conclusion to Craig’s tenure that is in no need of an epilogue or continuation of any sorts. So when the credits begin to roll, feel free to leave the theater.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the James Bond franchise is out of ammo. The film series is poised for a particularly interesting future given Amazon’s acquisition of MGM, a partial owner of the 007 series. Producer Barbara Broccoli has said that the search for Craig’s successor will begin in 2022 and we’ve already begun to draft a handful of worthy candidates for the role. So while there is ample opportunity to speculate on the future of James Bond, do not expect any such hints from a post-credits scene in No Time To Die.

Sorry, ‘No Time To Die’ Does Not Have an End Credits Scene

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Prince William and Kate Will Join the Queen in Scotland for an Important Event Next Month

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Prince William and Kate Will Join the Queen in Scotland for an Important Event Next Month
Prince William and Kate Middleton are heading back to Scotland in November.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are heading back to Scotland next month for an important environmental event. Buckingham Palace confirmed that Prince William and Kate Middleton are joining Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles in Glasgow for the United Nations Climate Change Conference on November 1 through November 5, and will attend a number of events at the summit.

This will be the 26th annual summit; it was supposed to take place in November 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. During the two-week conference, world leaders come together to discuss how to address climate change and complete the goals of the Paris Agreement; the objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus slow global warming.

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1633850795 777 Prince William and Kate Will Join the Queen in Scotland
The Queen’s family also joined her at the G7 Summit in Cornwall earlier this year.

While the summit takes place from October 31 to November 12, it seems that as of now, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will only be there for five days, per Hello. Queen Elizabeth’s attendance was confirmed in late August, and she’s scheduled to attend the opening night reception on November 1. Other global leaders expected to attend the conference include Pope Francis, President Joe Biden and at least 100 more presidents and prime ministers, per the New York Times.

It makes sense that the Queen’s family is joining her for the occasion, as Prince Charles has long been an active and vocal environmentalist, and the Duke of Cambridge appears to be following in his footsteps. Last year, Prince William launched the Earthshot Prize, which awards five $1.2 million prizes to individuals, organizations and activists everywhere who are working to find solutions to the largest environmental problems plaguing the world.

Queen Elizabeth spent the past two months at Balmoral Castle, her estate in the Scottish Highlands, before returning to Windsor Castle in early October. Prince William and Duchess Kate visited the monarch in Scotland over the summer, when they brought their children to Balmoral for a family vacation. Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla also spend much of their summer (as well as lockdown) in Scotland at Birkhall, their home on the Queen’s Balmoral estate.

1633850795 40 Prince William and Kate Will Join the Queen in Scotland
Prince William, Duchess Kate, Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla all recently attended the James Bond premiere in London.

While the royals typically lighten their workload over the summer, they’ve gotten right back to work now that fall is in the air. The COP 26 conference, however, will be the first big engagement with all the senior royals together, including Queen Elizabeth, since the June G7 Summit in Cornwall. Prince William, Duchess Kate, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall did recently attend a big event together, as they all appeared at the James Bond premiere in London, where the Duchess of Cambridge stole the show in a glittering gold sequin gown.

Prince William and Kate Will Join the Queen in Scotland for an Important Event Next Month

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Ruben Santiago-Hudson Makes Music of the Past in ‘Lackawanna Blues’

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Ruben Santiago-Hudson Makes Music of the Past in ‘Lackawanna Blues’
Ruben Santiago – Hudson (front/standing), Junior Mack (back/seated) Marc Franklin

The week I caught Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s Lackawanna Blues the Twittersphere was abuzz over the “Bad Art Friend” literary scandal. TLDR: Narcissistic writer donates a kidney, expecting social-media glory; frenemy writer pens a satirical story inspired by the incident; the first writer cries betrayal and plagiarism; the second writer claims artistic license. Lawsuits follow. Everyone looks bad.

I thought about the ethical responsibility of the writer to real people during Lackawanna Blues, which premiered 20 years ago at the Public Theater and now makes its Broadway bow at Manhattan Theatre Club. In it, writer-director Santiago-Hudson embodies a couple dozen characters he encountered growing up in the 1950s and ’60s in an upstate New York boardinghouse for mostly Black residents. Chief among them is Rachel Crosby, a.k.a. Nanny, an iron-willed matriarch who protects neglected children, abused women, and broken men.

Who knows how much of the story is freely embellished or recalled with verbatim veracity. Did schoolboy Ruben write down the stories he heard? Did everything happen that he says happened? Frankly, I don’t care, and those people have long returned to dust. What matters is that an artist crafted a beautiful folk patchwork from childhood memories.

This is an adoption bildungsroman; Santiago-Hudson’s single mom (a bartender) didn’t have the time or resources to raise him properly. So, tearfully, she surrendered the toddler to Nanny, who made the care and education of the boy her special project. In a later act of heroism, the remarkable woman stood up to an abusive Black boxer whose battered white wife sought refuge at one of Nanny’s houses. With a shift of posture and rearrangement of arms, Santiago-Hudson conjures up a tense standoff between the violent pugilist and the resolute Nanny.

Robust but graceful, the actor effects dozens of sharply etched transformations over the course of 90 minutes, as denizens of Nanny’s house come forward to share their stories. There’s the one-legged Mr. Lemuel Taylor, whose tongue darts in and out of his mouth like a lizard. Numb Finger Pete is so named because of the digits he lost to frostbite; he and Taylor get into an awkward scuffle. Small Paul confesses the murder of a girlfriend and her lover in a jealous rage, and how in prison he learned to “talk American.” As a boy, Mr. Luscious took revenge on a white man for an insult, then hid in a swamp, where he was bitten by a snake and lost an arm. Although the stories reek of injustice and pain, they’re told lightly by the survivors.

We keep returning to these wounded yet pugnacious men, who must have fascinated and frightened young Ruben. Nanny holds the center of the story, as the surrogate parent who never failed our narrator, and always believed in him. Although she’s portrayed as part entrepreneur and part saint, Nanny has her own weakness: good-looking but untrustworthy men. One of them, the philandering Bill, casually mistreats young Ruben and incurs Nanny’s wrath. 

Such basic storytelling, a collection of vignettes peppered with musical passages, could have been presented quite minimally, but MTC wraps Santiago-Hudson’s colorful yarns in a handsome package. Michael Carnahan’s grandly dilapidated proscenium arcs over the stage; Jen Schriever’s lights evoke the ghosts and shadows of yesteryear; Darron L. West’s sound design balances speech and music — of which there’s an abundance. Santiago-Hudson isn’t alone on stage: He’s backed by accomplished guitarist Junior Mack, who strums and frets the original blues score by Bill Simms, Jr. Santiago-Hudson jams along on harmonica, wailing and keening into the air when words just aren’t enough. 

“I wonder when will I get to be called a man?” Santiago-Hudson croons in the blues classic by Big Bill Broonzy. In this mean and unfair world, his play suggests, it can take more than a lifetime to grow up and claim your dignity. 

Ruben Santiago-Hudson Makes Music of the Past in ‘Lackawanna Blues’

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‘Dune’ is a Sprawling Orientalist Fever Dream

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‘Dune’ is a Sprawling Orientalist Fever Dream
Dune feels like a beautifully composed excuse for white savior colonialism. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

The strangest thing about Denis Villeneuve’s Dune—or Dune: Part One, as it’s titled on screenis not anything that happens in the story, or that it took Hollywood so long to re-adapt Frank Herbet’s 1965 novel after the 1984 film by David Lynch. Rather, it’s that a new work based only on a single source can arrive amidst a sea of sequels and shared universes and still feel like it has its tendrils in so many other texts. Dune is enormous in scale, and that enormity is matched by its evocations of a vast and winding history of the Middle East—which is to say, the Middle East that has existed in the Western consciousness for decades, across books, films, video games and other media, all of which have cross-pollinated to create a nebulous identity. The film itself is mostly fine, with breathtaking visuals broken up by a less captivating story that often drags its feet (despite several great performances). But its place within Western traditions—both real and imagined—is strange, unsavory, and fascinating.

One of the rare Hollywood films where the story begins even before the studio logos, Dune kicks off with a harsh and mysterious whisper about dreams, before the Warner Bros. water tower slides across the screen. An odd introduction, though one that frames not only the story as a dream of sorts, but perhaps even the film’s making, as a studio product written, developed, budgeted (etcetera) with closed eyes, and heads filled with fantasies about Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia and Herbet’s novel, side by side with memories of mid-2000s American news broadcasts. These are all distinct entities which share similar aesthetic hallmarks vis-à-vis “the Muslim world,” with varying degrees of verisimilitude. Villeneuve’s film collapses this history—of Western media’s perspective on the Middle East—whether or not it means to.


Dune ★★1/2
(2.5/4 stars)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson
Running time: 155 mins.


The film’s sprawling plot elements are established with more clarity and more panache than in Lynch’s version—action and dialogue stand in for dense exposition, while seeds are planted more carefully along the way, through character interactions. It wastes little time establishing who’s who, from the militaristic House Atreides—Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), their firm but kindly leader, his love Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), a member of a secret matronly order, and their son Paul (Timothée Chalamet), a prince who searches for purpose and appears to dream of the future—to the desert planet Arrakis, where most of the action unfolds. Also known as “Dune,” the planet is littered with giant sand worms, populated by Bedouin-coded locals called the Fremen, and mined by colonial forces for a spice, “melange,” that’s part drug, part intergalactic fuel. The details are mostly unimportant, outside of knowing that an unseen Emperor has granted House Atreides the right to mine melange, thus replacing the gloomy House Harkonnen, led by a cartoonishly rotund Baron named Vladimir (Stellan Skarsgård in an airy fatsuit).

The names and concepts date back to Herbert’s books, which were inspired by accounts of mid-19th century wars between Imperial Russia and Muslim tribes in the Caucasus, but over time, Arrakis has stood in for whatever conflict the Western world has wrought on “the desert”—call it prescient, or merely aware of the flow of history. The 1984 film, for instance, was a perfect match for the era’s Afghanistan conflict between American and Soviet forces. In the new version, the minor Fremen character Chani (Zendaya) hints at this dynamic in her opening voiceover. As she explains the recent history of her planet, and the handover of power from the Harkonnens, she wonders not about freedom, but about which colonial powers will rule them next.

In this vein, Dune: Part One is mapped onto the post-9/11 “forever wars.” Little in the plot needs to change for this to happen but some of the designs are tweaked specifically for this parallel, like the interiors of the bug-like helicopters, which closely resemble modern U.S. military equipment. Atreides’ weapons master Gurney Halleck feels plucked out of a modern Hollywood war film, between his gung-ho bloodlust and the tough presence of Josh Brolin, who Villeneuve previously cast as a CIA operative in 2015’s Sicario. The general attitude of House Atreides towards the Fremen is one of othership and disdain, unless of course someone like Duke Leto wants to harness their strategic power.

It’s an obvious and not altogether terrible approach to critiquing American militarism, but it soon breaks down in amusing fashion, when the father-son duo is revealed to have been coaxed into colonizing Arrakis, summoning forth the pervasive lie about the Bush administration being fooled into invading Iraq. Is it a stretch to draw such a comparison? Yes, and no. On one hand, the plot of Dune existed for nearly 40 years before the aforementioned events. On the other, such volatile subject matter is never far from the production’s mind, and the movie is, by its very nature, part of a larger history wherein images and stories about the Middle East are contorted, not only as a means to comment on the region, but to reaffirm the West’s conception of itself.

The blue-eyed, golden-haired Luke Skywalker was once a victim of the ruthless “Sand People,” monsters draped in Bedouin garb, and his heroism was partially established in contrast to their villainy. These optics exist all across western sci-fi, and while Dune: Part Two may eventually subvert them, Part One plays like an unapologetic fixture of that legacy. Lawrence of Arabia served as a partial inspiration for Herbet, so the story of T.E. Lawrence—a real person with real experiences—becomes watered down and takes the shape of Paul Atreides, who similarly wears desert clothing with the culturally appropriate fit, presaging his entrance into Fremen culture as their Western savior. However, unlike Lawrence, who travelled and studied extensively, Paul’s familiarity with Fremen customs is despite him having spent no time at all with the locals, who feature only briefly in the film, and are a mostly homogenous bunch, whose faces are obscured behind their keffiyeh. Most of what we learn about them in Part One is their combat rituals, and their prophecy that paves the way for the heroic ascendancy of the clairvoyant Paul, like a white Prophet Muhammad hearing the word of God. 

Perhaps the presence of more Middle Eastern actors might have helped balance some of this iffy-ness, but Hollywood has created few Middle Eastern stars despite making the region a frequent setting for the last 20 years, so it has a built-in excuse. Besides, Dune (much like Aladdin) isn’t exactly the kind of story that can be decoupled from its permeating orientalism, without which it would barely exist. However, while the characters and dialogue always circle this ugly dynamic, the film is actually at its most thematically effective when cinema’s otherwise most useful tools—people’s faces and their words—are removed entirely. Dune is spellbinding when it captures architecture shaped by oblique light, sleek ships gliding across an unforgiving desert, and enormous industrial machines extracting natural resources from beneath the sand. At 155 minutes in length, the film has plenty of room for such scenes, where individual characters are no longer the focus, and the terrain tells its own story. 

These images echo, more directly and more powerfully, the central conceit of colonial forces sucking a culture dry. Villeneuve and cinematographer Greig Fraser speak volumes with the way they portray scale, with human beings and their airships being dwarfed by these extraction devices, and the devices in turn looking minuscule and insignificant when the desert (via those gigantic sand worms) eventually strikes back and returns things to their natural order. 

If there’s a cut of Dune: Part One that’s all establishing and wide shots, it would probably play like a sci-fi remix of documentaries by Ron Fricke or Godfrey Reggio. It would also avoid silliness like composer Hans Zimmer—whose percussions are certainly propulsive—accompanying every third close up of Paul with vocals bordering ululating. Or the sloppiness of coding House Atreides as a Western military power while dressing their women in vaguely Middle Eastern clothes. Or the disappointment of carefully choreographed hand-to-hand fights lacking any real weight or impact (Jason Momoa’s energy notwithstanding, as Paul’s fantastically named mentor Duncan Idaho).

Almost every tangible fixture pales in comparison to the film’s haunting atmosphere, from the way its interior and exterior locations envelope the senses, to the way its premonitions create a haunting tapestry of pictures and ideas. These visions don’t quite work when they portray entire scenes, which have little bearing on this half of the story, but when Paul straddles the line of consciousness, these moments become fleeting and ethereal, as they portray impressionistic hints of people and events—or even design elements, like desert sandals or scarves twisting in the wind, brief shots which strip the film’s exoticism of displeasurable context, and briefly transform it into something dreamlike and inviting. That is, until the two-part saga’s awkward and tensionless midpoint jolts you awake.


Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.

‘Dune’ is a Sprawling Orientalist Fever Dream

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Forget the Honda Civic—Japanese Auto Giant Aims for Space Industry in Grand 2030 Plan

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Forget the Honda Civic—Japanese Auto Giant Aims for Space Industry in Grand 2030 Plan
A Honda auto dealership in, Lewiston, Idaho. Don and Melinda Crawford/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In a few years, the manufacturer of the Honda Civic and CR-V may be operating air taxis above cities and launching reusable rockets into Earth’s orbit like SpaceX and Rocket Lab.

Last week, Japanese auto giant Honda announced a grand ten-year plan that involves developing flying cars, robots and small reusable rockets that can carry satellites weighing less than 1 ton to low Earth orbit before 2030.

The carmaker, with a market cap of $55 billion, plans to invest $45 billion in the next six years on the research and development of these new projects and expects to create a rocket division as big as its electric vehicle unit.

This idea to build reusable rockets is initiated by “young Honda engineers” who wanted to utilize the company’s “core technologies, such as combustion and control technologies” in new areas, Honda said in a press release on September 30.

Specifically, Honda says it will apply its combustion technology developed for gas cars to build a liquid fuel system for rockets and autonomous driving technology to rocket flight control and guidance. The company formed a team of combustion engineers in 2019 and has built a prototype rocket engine.

“Technologies for rocket combustion and control and lower costs are already in the hands of automakers. We will just change the field where the technologies are applied,” Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe told Japan’s Nikkei Asia.

“This is not surprising, and Honda is not the first auto company to enter the space industry recently,” said Micah Walter-Range, President of Caelus Partners, a consulting firm specializing in the commercial space industry. Chinese automaker Geely is working on a satellite network to support self-driving cars.

“The rationale offered by the company makes sense,” Walter-Range added. “They know how to produce highly reliable components at a large scale, and they have the engineering expertise to apply to the challenge of rocketry.”

Honda’s rocket initiative will put the 73-year-old automaker in a tough race against billionaire and SPAC-backed companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Orbit and Rocket Lab.

All these companies—many of which are unprofitable—are betting on the booming business of small satellite launch. The demand for low Earth orbit imaging and communications satellites has soared in recent years. By one estimate, by the market research firm Mordor Intelligence, the small satellite launch industry is on track to grow from this year’s $4 billion to $7.2 billion by 2026.

But options for launching these satellites are still limited and largely dominated by a handful of companies. Competition to lower the cost of launch is intense. Delivering a full load of satellites to Earth orbit using a SpaceX Falcon 9 can cost as much as $70 million per launch, which is already much cheaper than traditional single-use rockets. SpaceX has made it less expensive for small satellite makers through its satellite “ride-share” program. And its competitors, such as Rocket Lab, have been able to significantly lower per-launch prices by making smaller reusable boosters.

Honda says its reusable rockets will be able to launch satellites for half what it costs today. Yet, it’s hard to say how competitive that proposition will be in ten year when its rockets are finally commercially ready.

Honda plans to build its first reusable rocket and test launch it with a satellite before the end of this decade.

Forget the Honda Civic—Japanese Auto Giant Aims for Space Industry in Grand 2030 Plan

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What to Watch on Streaming This Week: Oct 8 – 14

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What to Watch on Streaming This Week: Oct 8 – 14
Kaitlyn Dever and Michael Keaton in the first episode of Dopesick. Antony Platt/Hulu

Another week, another great slate of content to watch! From series premieres to new movies, returning favorites to cult classics, there’s plenty to pay attention to this week. Whether you want a powerfully emotional new show, some good scares, or to drag up your dragging week, we’ve got more than enough to recommend to you.

What to watch on Netflix:

Maid

If The Queen’s Gambit made anything clear about Netflix, it’s that they can produce an arresting limited series surrounding a complex, tortured female character. Instead of chess and Anya Taylor Joy, though, Maid offers actress Margaret Qualley a chance to struggle and shine as an impoverished single mother who’s escaped an abusive relationship and finds work as a house cleaner. The series has received universally positive reviews so far, making it more than worth the watch. Maid premiered earlier this month and is streaming on Netflix now.

Raw

Cannibalism, veterinary school, and the French – oh my! Raw was the 2016 feature directorial debut of French filmmaker Julia Ducournau, a rising star in international film after her body-horror flick Titane won the prestigious Palme d’Or earlier this year. This coming-of-age tale is tinged with horror, as lifelong vegetarian Justine starts her training as a vet and begins to develop a taste for meat—from all sorts of sources. It’s a movie that wants you to be squirming in your seat, so if you’re in the mood to watch something thoroughly freaky, this is the perfect choice. Raw is available to stream on Netflix now.

What to watch on Hulu:

Dopesick

This new limited series promises to be a dramatic look into the greed, trauma, and tragedy that helped to propel the U.S. into its current opioid crisis. Dopesick starts with the creation of OxyContin by Big Pharma company Purdue, then follows all of the unfortunate threads that result from the drug. From suspicious small-town doctor Michael Keaton to DEA agent Rosario Dawson and addict Kaitlyn Dever to CEO Michael Stuhlbarg, this show promises a wide-ranging look at the devastating effects of one company’s decision to prioritize profits over people. Dopesick premieres October 13.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

If the incoming Halloween holiday makes you shiver in antici… pation, then you’ll be happy to hear that the campy cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show is available on streaming. This wonderfully absurd and gleefully obscene movie has remained a staple in theaters for its devoted troupes of audience participants, and while all should try to support their local theaters by attending an interactive showing or two this spooky season, this movie packs more than enough fun and weirdness to experience from the comfort of your own home. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is available to stream on Hulu now.

What to watch on Amazon Prime:

The Manor

In addition to last week’s Bingo Hell, Amazon is partnering with horror juggernaut Blumhouse (Get Out, The Purge series) to bring another scary movie to streamers this week. The Manor, in an interesting addition to last year’s I Care A Lot, centers around an old woman who has been forcibly moved into an assisted living facility following a stroke. Here, she encounters unexplainable supernatural threats, but her incapacitated status forces her to remain in this den of danger. It’s always interesting when a horror movie makes the active choice to subvert the final girl trope, as The Manor does by casting 73-year-old Barbara Hershey as its protagonist, so it makes sense that this film will pack more than a few twists and turns. The Manor premieres October 8.

What to watch on HBO Max:

It: Chapter 2

With It: Chapter 2 becoming available to stream this week, HBO Max has given you the perfect opportunity to set up a great horror movie marathon. Not only could you make a double feature out of It: Chapter 2 and its predecessor It, but you can add a third film onto the roster with It franchise director Andy Muschietti’s directorial debut, Mama. Two out of three of these movies also star Jessica Chastain, which is never NOT a plus. It: Chapter 2 will be available starting October 10.

We’re Here 

For some lighter fare, HBO’s Emmy-nominated reality show is returning. We’re Here brings back drag queens Shangela, Eureka O’Hara, and Bob the Drag Queen—all three made famous by their stints on RuPaul’s Drag Race—to venture to small, rural towns, recruiting people in need of a means of personal expression and helping them perform in one-night-only drag performances. It’s a show that provides a winning combination of heart and humor, equally emotional and uplifting, and with only six episodes in the first season, it’s the perfect show for a quick binge before its second season comes around. We’re Here – Season 2 premieres October 11.


Keeping Watch is a regular endorsement of TV and movies worth your time.

What to Watch on Streaming This Week: Oct 8 – 14

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Ahead of Columbus Day, the Roosevelt Statue Uptown Has Been Doused in Red Paint

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Ahead of Columbus Day, the Roosevelt Statue Uptown Has Been Doused in Red Paint

The statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the Museum of Natural History on June 22, 2020. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the controversial statue of Theodore Roosevelt that still stands sentry outside the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan was splattered with red paint, seemingly in anticipation of Columbus Day on Monday. The statue, which depicts Roosevelt on horseback and flanked by an Indigenous man and a Black man, has attracted controversy for years for its colonialist viewpoint and execution. Earlier this year, the New York City Public Design Commission unanimously voted to take down the statue and relocate it to a cultural institution that has not yet been named that will be dedicated to the former president’s legacy.

Even in anticipation of the statue being removed, it appears that the figure of Roosevelt is nevertheless still a target. “Other big cities have been proactive in removing offensive monuments and renaming Columbus Day,” Decolonize This Place told Hyperallergic while emphasizing that the organization had nothing to do with the recent paint splattering. “What is wrong with New York? It’s been 16 months since the Mayor agreed to take away the Roosevelt triptych, and he still has not moved to properly recognize Indigenous Peoples Day.”

The statue in question is officially entitled Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt, and it was commissioned in the 1930s by the Roosevelt Memorial Association and sculpted by the artist James Earle Fraser. “It has become clear that removing the statue would be a symbol of progress toward an inclusive and equitable community,” Dan Slippen, the vice president of government relations at the Museum of Natural History, said this summer.

Meanwhile, a statue of George Floyd that had been set up in Union Square was also vandalized this week. No matter the motivation of the vandals, it appears that this is a dangerous time for New York City’s public art.

Ahead of Columbus Day, the Roosevelt Statue Uptown Has Been Doused in Red Paint

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National Geographic film documents ‘The Rescue’ from flooded Thai cave

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National Geographic film documents ‘The Rescue’ from flooded Thai cave

In the summer of 2018, the unimaginable ordeal of a dozen boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand for weeks on end won the world’s attention.

Now comes “The Rescue,” a National Geographic documentary from the Oscar-winning “Free Solo” duo of Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin.

The couple, married with two kids, tell this extraordinary saga with its still-incredible happy ending through re-enactments, never-before-seen footage and cooperation from an international cast of volunteers, the operation’s unsung heroes.

“Jimmy and I were riveted by the story and watched beat by beat the highs, the lows,” said Vasarhelyi, 42, in a joint Zoom interview.

They began over a year after the rescue. “We chased this uplifting story,” she said. “But also, there are very few positive nonfiction Asian stories and as Asian-American filmmakers, here is one that we were in a unique position to listen really closely to everyone involved.”

That includes two years negotiating with the Thai Navy Seals whose input — and footage — were crucial.

“It was incredibly challenging. Where in fiction filmmaking you can write your way out of a problem, in nonfiction the obstacles inspire the craft.

“We weren’t there for the principal action and no civilian was permitted to film inside the cave. So there was ‘no footage’ and it just became this hunt, like a forensic investigation of combing through all the media. CNN would have one angle and a local Thai website has another, so maybe we have two shots now.

“When I was in Thailand,” she continued, “people just began sending us footage. They knew we were there. Then other sources came forward.”

“You have to remember the Thai Navy Seals are a covert operations team. They don’t advertise what they do,” Chin, 47, said. “So it was a small coup to even get them on camera.

“Then, like when your child just won’t take no for an answer, she flew to Thailand and literally went up to the admiral of the Seals and I’m still unclear how she did it — but she convinced them to give us the footage and appear in the film.”

One of the most emotional ‘You are there!’ moments is when, after 14 days in the stinking cave, the lads will be carried out one-by-one unconscious.

We see Australia’s Dr. Eric Harris, a diver, via his GoPro, film putting the first boy to sleep, packing him in a body shell with his oxygen for the two-and-a-half hour underwater swim to the Thai Seals’ base station where he can be carried out.

“It’s a good example,” Chin said, “of those little moments that were critical to the rest.”

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