Monday, August 17, 2015

What We've Been Watching: The Invisible Man, Red Army, John Adams

Red Army (2014)

Riveting account of the Soviet hockey team before the collapse of the Soviet Union. As someone who watched their Olympic defeat at the hands of the U.S. with relish, I was fascinated to see the other side of the story. This documentary begins far before that and ends in modern times.

What we really are seeing is an interesting insight into life in the Soviet regime as part of their propaganda machine. That didn't make their accomplishments any less and seeing what happened to the players later in life was an interesting look at how people get buffeted around after their foundation has been knocked out from under them ... and at how they get back up again.

The Invisible Man (1933)

This 1933 film was a blockbuster for the special effects, humor, and thrills. I'd been really interested to see how it held up and have to say I was really impressed with the special effects. No wonder it wowed 'em!

Claude Rains, hired for his first Hollywood movie because of his expressive voice, was masterful in acting without his face showing since it was swathed in bandages to give it visual form. I wish I could say the same for the acting of his supporting cast. Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, and Henry Travers were either placeholders or wooden at best. I did like James Whales' trademark humor which was strewn throughout, especially the contributions made by police officers.

Overall recommended for an entertaining evening at the movies and a view of Hollywood film history.

John Adams (HBO miniseries) 2008

This had been recommended by so many people and won so many Emmys that we weren't surprised to find ourselves really liking it.

However, my husband read the book some years before and after a while he began saying, "I don't remember so much emphasis on this thing." Or "They make the Jefferson-Adams hostilities look like a minor tiff."

Once I began looking there were a lot of places where the series diverged from the book, we assumed for dramatic purposes. We understand things have to be dumbed down for translation from an indepth book to television, but still the points began adding up.

Then one wonders if the need to dramatize led to a whole lot of adding-on for modern sensibilities. For example, there is, of course, an inherent irony now because slave labor worked on the White House. However, in actuality there were also free African-Americans, migrant laborers, and regular tradesmen. I understand the need to make a point. Slavery was a touchy topic from the word go. And, as I said, the irony. But to be shown only a slave workforce and then get hit over the head with it every time the Adams popped their heads out of doors got a bit old, considering the actual fact of the matter.

This was just one of a variety of areas where we felt modern interpretations were too much with us (Adams weeping in the alley after casting off his scoundrel son was another such moment, though I haven't read the book and perhaps he dutifully recorded deep sorrow in his diary entry that day).

Watching a historical movie is one thing when inaccuracies are used for presentation purposes or to make a point more clearly. However, seven episodes of someone's life story, even one as full as that of John Adams, one would hope the details could be correct. I'm not here for the acting or set designs after all, splendid though they were.


  1. One thing I've always wanted to read is the letters between John and Abigail. I know much of that content informed the biography, not sure on the miniseries, but I'd like to go to the source. Someday.

    1. Same here. One thing I neglected to give them credit for doing well was showing that close, loving relationship. The letters between one "Dear Friend" and the other were well represented. And he well knew that Abigail was his brakes.