Movies I’ve Recently Seen: The Social Dilemma, Coastal Elites, My Octopus Teacher, & Blonde Crazy

In this random selection of four movies, we find three very good films that came out this year (not on the big screen, of course). There’s also a mediocre movie nearly 90 years old.

A The Social Dilemma (2020)

This documentary/fiction hybrid shows us at least one reason why society is in such a mess. Top programmers explain how computer algorithms manipulate us on Google, Twitter, and especially Facebook. We’ve become addicts, looking for that dopamine hit online. These companies know more about us than we know about ourselves, and they keep us all in our bubbles by giving us what we want to read. These companies have enough information to destroy a country if that’s what the customer wants. And you and I are not the customers. We’re just the products they’re selling.

A Coastal Elites (2020)

How does cinema deal with the twin horrors of COVID and the Trump presidency? Paul Rudnick and Jay Roach chose to do it with monologues, and the result is very special. Bette Midler is a Jewish New Yorker talking to an unseen cop after losing her temper over a man’s MAGA hat. Dan Levy, the only male in the cast, is a struggling actor hoping to play a gay superhero. Issa Rae, the only person of color in the film, talks about an awkward meeting with Ivanka Trump. Sarah Paulson teaches meditation on TV, but she’s too unnerved because of her Trump-loving family. Finally, a nurse (Kaitlyn Dever) talks about a funny woman struggling with COVID.

B+ My Octopus Teacher (2020)

I’ve been fascinated by octopuses for years, so I eagerly waited for this documentary. I wasn’t disappointed. While swimming daily in a kelp forest near his home, Craig Foster befriended an adult octopus. Foster watches while the cephalopod hunts and avoids being hunted, and sometimes just plays in the water. These are surprisingly intelligent creatures that are nothing like human beings. The sad part is that they don’t live very long. As you’d expect, the film is beautiful to look at. Foster tries to make us believe he’s the only human swimming there, when it’s obvious that someone is filming him.

C Blonde Crazy (1931)

Not all pre-code Warner Brothers gangster movies are classics. In this little quickie, James Cagney and Joan Blondell play a couple of con artists who don’t realize that they’re in love. The movie is only moderately entertaining. On the other hand, it’s interesting to see how Hollywood visualized America while the Great Depression was dropping the economy through the floor.