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Monday, March 9, 2015

RED ARMY

I went to two films this weekend, and one was Red Army, an informative documentary, which provides a clue on the fate of Russia and the reign of Vladimir Putin.  Do you believe in miracles?  Yes!!!  Early on in the movie came the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey victory of the USA over the Soviet Union at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics.  The embarrassment of the greatest hockey team in the world losing to a bunch of American college hockey players served as the introduction to a fascinating portrayal of life behind the Iron Curtin.

To quote from the Epilogue of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

The (Doomsday) clock was at 9 minutes in the Fall of 1979, which was not a good time for the American Nation. I arrived in the U.S. Senate. Well, that was the best part. Earlier in the year, China had invaded Vietnam, the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster occurred not that far from the national capitol, the YMCA sued the Village People over their song of the same name and the second oil crisis with those interminable gasoline lines made life tedious. Just around the time the USA hockey team was being selected by their coach, Herb Brooks, the Iranian crisis happened (President Carter suffering, left), with 66 Americans held hostage in Teheran, followed the next month by the Soviets occupying Afghanistan. National pride was at an all time low and we felt powerless, when a miracle came to pass.

That was the above-mentioned hockey game.  While I gave credit to President Ronald Reagan (who opens the film) for helping end the Cold War in 1991 and felt it was this victory that catalyzed the fall of the Soviet Union, the movie actually went on to show how well the country rebounded, at least in ice hockey, recovering to win the next two gold medals in 1984 (Sarajevo) and 1988 (Calgary), when the USA was shut out.

Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave Red Army a 96% rating, while audiences scored it at 90%.  (Incidentally, RT gave It Follows, an R film opening this Friday, 98% and 93% ratings, featuring graphic nudity and having disturbing sexual content.  These are astoundingly high scores, for Kingsman only had a reviewers' rating of 74%, the latest SpongeBob Movie 75% and Fifty Shades of Grey 25%.)  While Red Army did not even make the top ten this weekend, the top three where Chappie (RT 23%), Focus (RT 55%) and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (RT 64%), the latter the second film I saw.
While the production substantiates the Soviet ice hockey team as the most successful dynasty in sports history, it is more so a story of global consequences and with raw human emotions, revealing the corruption endemic in the then communistic state.  Each member belonged to the military Red Army, and saw their families one month of the year, with no exceptions, even family death.

Director Gabe Polsky (left) was born to Soviet immigrants and played hockey at Yale University.  The film is also the life story of Vyacheslav Slava Fetisov (right), captain of two Soviet Olympic gold medal teams, who broke the Iron Curtain barrier, allowing more than 500 players from his country to get drafted by the National Hockey League.  He won back to back NHL championships with the Detroit Red Wings, then coached them to a Stanley Cup victory.  However, his tribulations at home, where he was labeled a traitor, and his relationship with the Politburo was caustic, discombobulated his personal life.  Finally, on the behest of Putin (Slava is to the left below) he came home to take the position of Minister of Sports, and went on to become a member of the Federal Assembly of Russia upper house and was instrumental in bringing the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi.

However, when you read about Putin's rival, Boris Nemstov, being assassinated, you realize that what was happening during the days of Cold War, leading to the dissolution of the Soviet Union into 14 pieces, continues today.  Nothing much has changed in this Russia under Vladimir Putin.  Only five communistic countries now exist, and Cuba, North Korea and China are having huge political difficulties.  While the Russian Federation is now considered to be a constitutional republic, remains the largest country in the world at 6.6 million square miles, and seems to be turning things around here and there, you can only wonder how long they will be able to compete economically, where alcoholism, abortion (more than children born) and corruption are rampant.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was an okay flick with various flaws.  Interestingly enough, Dev Patel (Remember him from Slumdog Millionaire?) starred in this, and the #1 film this week, Chappie.  You need to live in a seniors' community to truly appreciate this effort.  While BEMH and Second BEMH represent options for those approaching retirement age, that is, living in developing countries where the everything is cheaper and life can be exotic, there will come that moment when you reach that stage in  your life when you hit the wall, and don't exactly die.  These retirement sites, and others such as the Plaza in Honolulu, basically kick you out when you become incapacitated.  This is a time of greatest vulnerability for you, and your only pathway will become very, very expensive, if you can find anything at all.  15 Craigside promises to take care of you until the very end.

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By the way, Tropical Cyclone Pam has formed east of Australia.  Now at only 50 MPH, Pam will strengthen into a Category 3 and will  head south between Vanuatu and Fiji.


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