Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife, Ghost in the Shell [2017]

                 Keep Your Friends Close But Your Enemies Closer

                                                       Reviews by Ken Burke
                            The Zookeeper’s Wife (Niki Caro)
Based on a true story of WW II Poland, we see a married couple running the Warsaw, Poland zoo at the time of Germany’s invasion which creates destruction in their peaceful enterprise as well as bringing conflict into the family as “Hitler’s zoologist” starts taking a liking to the wife even as she and her husband work out a scheme to smuggle Jews out of the local ghetto.
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): In this film based on real events, what begins as an idyllic vision of harmony within the zookeeper family of Antonina and Jan Żabiński in addition to the love they share with the many animals they care for turns into a nightmare in September 1939 when Germany invades Poland, with the bombing of Warsaw doing great damage to the zoo and all its inhabitants.  More trouble arrives in the person of Dr. Lutz Heck, known as “Hitler’s zoologist,” who wants to use the almost-abandoned-facility to carry out his experiments with breeding bison back to their ancestral form as an aspect of the Nazi obsession with purification, which brings him into the damaged Żabiński home where he’d like to cause more turmoil with his attraction to Antonina.  Jan responds, channeling his anger, by working with his wife to convince the Germans to use their property as a pig farm to provide food for the occupying soldiers (with the pigs fed from the garbage generated in the recently-established Jewish ghetto) but it’s all part of a covert plan to smuggle Jews out of the ghetto in the garbage truck, then hide them in the Żabińskis’ cellar until they can be moved elsewhere.  The tension of discovery is constant throughout this film, although scenes of on-the-spot Nazi executions are largely confined to soldiers shooting some of the zoo’s animals for cruel sport.  What happens further can be found in Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book of the same name or other historical accounts, but that’s all I’ll say here for now (except, as you know, the Germans are finally driven out of Poland but at great expense to its citizens and their country).

 There’s nothing here you probably haven’t seen before in terms of depictions of brutal, dangerous Nazis up against brave, well-conceived resistance to their horrid worldview, but it’s an inspiring story nevertheless, made even more solid by superb acting especially the work of Jessica Chastain as big-hearted-Antonina, Johan Heldenbergh as her quietly-seething-but-determined-husband, and Daniel Brühl as the self-important/disgusting-Dr. Heck.  Other critical response to this film has mostly been restrained (58% at both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic), but I found it be effectively-inspirational—as well as a necessary-ongoing-reiteration of the horrors of both the specifics of the Holocaust and egomaniacal-dictatorial-policies overall—so I recommend this film for historical explication as well as emotional impact in its depiction of events largely taken from Antonina’s diary.

So, curious readers, if you can abide plot spoilers in order to learn much more about the particular cinematic offering under examination this week please feel free to read on for more of the traditional Two Guys in-depth-explorations in our brilliant (!)-but-lengthy review format.
What Happens: In summer 1939 Warsaw, Poland we begin with an idyllic scene as Antonina Żabiński (Jessica Chastain) awakens one morning with her young son, Ryszard (Timothy Radford; Val Maloku when the boy’s a bit older) and a pair of lion cubs, which isn’t as strange as it might seem because she and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh), own, live in, run the city zoo (Dad’s already out doing chores).  It seems to be a perfect situation for this family as we watch Antonina open the gate to visitors (not customers, as there seems to be no entry fee), then ride her bike on daily rounds with a young camel following behind.  It’s clear she has mutual affection with all of her charges, from lions to elephants, even tossing apples into the mouth of a huge hippo.  The only disagreeable aspect of these opening scenes involves some conversation at a reception with Dr. Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl) from neighboring Germany where he serves as Hitler’s zoologist but in Warsaw he’s got a roving eye for Antonina, even as he’s impressed with her animal-empathy shown as she races from this party to help her elephant parents when their newborn calf needs assistance to begin breathing.  Things go badly fast, though, on September 1 of that year when the Germans invade Poland, dropping bombs on Warsaw which damage the zoo, killing many of its inhabitants with others set free to roam the streets until invading soldiers shoot some of them down, a few remaining ones brought back to the zoo by local residents.  At this point, Heck arrives to convince Antonina to let him send her prize specimens to Germany for safekeeping (Jan’s not happy with this) even as he makes advances on her (another source of Jan’s displeasure); later, Heck has most of the remaining zoo stock shot “for their own good” as they wouldn’t survive the oncoming winter.

 Another part of the Warsaw community will have difficulty surviving also as all the Jews are herded into a ghetto (“a human zoo” Antonina calls it) by October 1940, with very little food, no firewood, and daily brutal treatment from their cruel invading Nazi captors.  Antonina and Jan offer their friend Magda Gross (Efrat Dor) secret shelter in their home, although her husband, Maurycy Fraenkel (Iddo Goldberg), willingly accepts his fate in the ghetto, asking only that his prized mounted insect collection be safely stashed away somewhere in the remains of the zoo.  Soon, Jan decides to find a strategy to hide even more Jews in the large cellar under their house (my better-read-wife, Nina, tells me that in the non-fiction-book of the same title [Diane Ackerman, 2007; based on Antonina’s diaries] this film’s based on it’s Antonina who comes up with the larger-scale-idea so why Angela Workman’s script makes this change I’m not sure, except maybe because the film is so focused on Antonina throughout this gives her husband more balance as a crucial character dedicated to the safety of his countrymen), which he’s able to do through a scam set up by the Żabińskis, approved by Herr Heck, where they start a pig farm on the zoo grounds as food for the soldiers with the pigs being fed on garbage trucked in by Jan from the ghetto (Heck especially likes the irony of the Jews feeding pigs to be eaten by the Germans).  On each visit, though, Jan hides a few ghetto-dwellers under the piles of slop, then keeps these people at the zoo until they can be trucked away, bearing recently-forged ID papers made in the rear of a local bakery.

 Despite the harsh daily tensions plaguing these zookeepers about the inevitably-tragic-results if the soldiers discover their refugees—people who try to sleep or just remain quiet during the day, come upstairs for a little relief at night after the Germans have left (they make some military use of the grounds while the sun’s up), with Antonina’s piano-playing used as a signal for them to either be silent if anyone comes to the house during the daytime or finally venture upstairs for communal meals and conversation at night—Jan and his wife continue their rescue mission, even as Dr. Heck (now in full Nazi uniform) continues his advances on her because he’s often at the former zoo carrying out his Auroch experiments on bison, attempting to reverse-breed the contemporary animal back to its more-ancient-form as part of Hitler’s quest for “purity” in his reconstructed Europe.  As we move into 1942 it’s clear to Jan that the Jews being forced into train cars aren’t coming back, while he’s also getting angrier at the attention Heck’s giving his wife (which she hesitantly plays along with in order to secure his friendship), but by April 1943 the extermination program is ramped up with the burning of the ghetto, providing a poignant scene as ashes fall like black snowflakes over Warsaw while the Żabińskis share a Passover Seder dinner with their “guests.”  Tensions further mount as Heck discovers and burns the fake ID operation, then attempts to intimidate Ryszard into divulging information about Jan, only to have the boy play along with this Nazi indoctrination while his interrogator keeps pushing for responses (that he never gets in a useful manner) then yelling “Hitler is kaput” after Heck leaves the house.  In August 1944 Jan joins the noble-but-doomed Warsaw Uprising but is injured, captured; by January 1945 Warsaw’s in chaos with the advance of the Russian army as Antonina’s frantic to find Jan so she turns to Heck (who's leaving with the other German high command) for help but he doesn’t buy her story of why her “innocent” husband was swept up with other prisoners, then tries to rape her until she says “I despise you,” whereupon he quickly wonders what other lies she’s been telling about her family's activities at the zoo grounds.

 Strangely enough, even as he’s telephoning for troops to head to the zoo Heck lets Antonina go; even more strangely (but necessary for dramatic tension) she manages to wend her way through the huge crowds (fleeing  out of Warsaw rather than being annihilated by the anticipated-but-inevitable destruction to come from the invading Russians) to arrive at the zoo before Heck’s troops can get there, sending the last of her refugees off in a truck in one direction just as the Germans roll in from the other, but when Heck joins his underlings he eventually makes his way to the cellar where the chalk drawings on the wall (made by Urszula [Shira Haas], a young girl brutally raped by soldiers in the ghetto before Jan could get her out) immediately tell him what’s been going on so he locks Antonina in a cage, appears to take Ryszard off for execution before leaving, but it was just a disturbing shot we heard, not the actual death of the boy.  Soon, Antonina and her son join the long line of Poles leaving before Warsaw’s reduced to rubble; by September 1945, though, they’re back, joining in with their neighbors in rebuilding the city after the war, with the last scene a year later when Jan returns at last to his family (including a young daughter born a couple of years prior), with final graphics prior to the end credits giving us later details of the Żabiński couple’s lives including the reopening of their zoo along with being honored by the state of Israel in 1968 as “Righteous Amongst the Nations” for saving over 300 Jewish lives during those horror years of the Holocaust.

So What? You may think that the Holocaust may have already been covered enough through various older cinematic manifestations, as seen in previously-powerful-film-presentations that range from examples such as
The Diary of Anne Frank (George Stevens, 1959) to Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)—or the multi-hour-Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985) if you’re aware of this devastating documentary—but I say there could never be enough exploration of this sorrowfully-tragic-time in human history if just for the simple reasons of always making sure that Holocaust deniers have no evidence to attempt to support their heinous lies or reminding ourselves that even thought there are getting to be just a few people still alive who can directly testify to this criminal exercise in genocide that this is no abstraction, that invoking the name Hitler is more than just a symbolic indictment of more contemporary maniacs allowed to run their countries into the slime of the worst manifestations of human activity.  Maybe there are vast numbers of other courageous Nazi rejecters like the Żabińskis who also saved lives (even 1 or 2, if not hundreds) but whose stories haven’t been told yet through media manifestations that can now reach millions; if so, we need to keep hearing these stories to know such evil is part of our human capabilities so we should never assume that what happened with the mass executions in Germany, Poland, and throughout occupied Europe during WW II are just some form of dramatic hyperbole, we must know that any country allowed to fall victim to dictatorship can degenerate into policies of death (as we’ve seen for far too many decades now in various countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia).  But beyond the need to keep our understanding of how this vast, grotesque policy of extermination truly occurred even as most of the world remained ignorant (or in denial) of it, we also need to know that there are ordinary resisters—not just hallowed historical figures—willing to work quietly, effectively on behalf of those who’re being abused, even when there aren't any family nor ethnic connections to inspire such hazardous actions of resistance.

 By comparison to many other Holocaust-themed-films, The Zookeeper’s Wife is reserved, even fragile, in its strategy of showing another aspect of this awful degradation of humanity when one culture imposes itself on another, allowing brutality to run wild in a way that’s much more deadly than those confused, escaped zoo animals wandering the streets of Warsaw after the initial bombing.  While the sick aura of unmitigated cruelty stays all-pervasive in the film’s atmosphere following the German invasion, what we’re mostly focused on is Antonina’s tenderness toward the people she and Jan are trying so intently to help, shown in the sympathetic moment you can see in the trailer (2nd link to this film, far below) as she tries to comfort emotionally-scarred-Urszula (too traumatized to even talk at this point) by giving her a baby bunny as a cuddling-companion while telling her about Antonina's own uprooted life from St. Petersburg, Russia after her father was killed when she was also a young, frightened girl.  Another quiet indicator of the war’s devastation comes when Jan’s in the ghetto, talking to friends who’ve been locked away there, passing along secret packages of pig meat for the starving “inmates,” which they’re all too happy to get despite the religious restrictions against the consumption of such, showing how in times of desperation pragmatism often wins out over ideology (echoing how Jan and his family hide their disgust with these barbaric invaders simply as a means of preserving themselves, a semblance of a home life, and an opportunity to aid some of their neighbors at the peril to themselves of being discovered in their deceptions).  Even Lutz’s attempted-rape of Antonina is cut short by her long-delayed-honest-rejection of him, implying he’s not fully the beast she (and we) assumed him to be (backed up by her slightly later plea to him when she thinks he’s going to kill Ryszard, “What kind of a man would shoot a child?” to which he replies, “I don’t know what kind of a man I’ve become!”), that even in the midst of war’s greatest atrocities ambiguity still exists in both motives and actions.

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: 
In 2010 Nina and I (along with our good friend and always well-informed/well-prepared traveling buddy, Jim Graham) spent a full month moving across Europe, from London all the way to Warsaw (an odd European metropolis in that it was so completely destroyed during WW II that, in its rebuilding, care was taken to reconstruct aspects of the Old City to appear as if they’d been in existence for centuries although those buildings are far short of being even 100 years old; we also saw the large, powerful sculptural memorial to the 1944 Uprising, inspiring even if you don’t yet know the full context of the remarkable event that it memorializes), including a day trip to what’s now a somber museum of the atrocious death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, certainly the most sobering experience of my life, one that left all 3 of us virtually speechless and unconsciously-irritable afterward because what we’d seen—even in just empty buildings, exhibition displays piled high with remnants (suitcases, hair, prosthetics) of the dead, the hauntingly-quiet-gas chamber—was just so overwhelming about the degree of evil that human beings can impose on each other that we found ourselves incapable of properly processing what still lingers from these awful places.  With that vivid memory alive even today, it’s impossible for me to watch The Zookeeper’s Wife without knowing the fate that awaited all those “chosen people” (in the tragically-twisted-irony of that Biblical term when put into this gruesome context) being forced into the cattle cars to take them from Warsaw’s ghetto (along with the brutal disgust that Jan felt as he quietly helped load little children onto a train, trying to keep up his façade of cooperation with an occupying army he detested) to their terrible destinations, with all of those early assumptions about “returning after the war” shown from our contemporary perspective to be the biggest lie of the many spawned by the Nazis.  Yet, what’s actually shown in … Wife isn’t often so terribly visually-disturbing (except for the bombing scene and the few animals shot by the soldiers) so much as what it implies about cruelties already known from historical evidence, stark documentaries made during the Allied liberations, and honored tales of the time like Schindler’s List.

 I guess other critics weren’t that moved by it though, as my 4 of 5 stars shine very brightly above the middling 58% of positive reviews surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes while the Metacritic composite score is also 58% (a rare confluence between these surveying-operations; more details on both in the links far below), while audiences have been reserved as well, with a meager opening weekend worldwide gross of about $3.7 million (most of it from the domestic [U.S.-Canada] market), but it’s playing in only 541 northern North American theaters so maybe it’ll still find some greater traction.

 Thus, in my opinion, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a well-told-but-subtle-story set in the midst of great agony where the cruelty of the Nazi ambitions to remake huge areas of the world into their warped visions of the domination by a “master race” serves mostly as a source of background trauma lest the clandestine activities of our brave protagonists should be revealed (as well as being a film showcasing the haughty cluelessness we see of these ferocious occupiers at times, such as the reality that the ghetto butted up against a local governmental agency so some of the captives were able to simply go through an unmanned-door, pick up their fake documents, and escape, while others were given reprieves by Antonina who helped some women dye their hair blonde so as to look more “Aryan,” allaying suspicion from the occupying Germans [Nina tells me that the actual Antonina also did this even though she wasn't Jewish, but no mention 

of this aspect of her life is made in the film, at least that I noticed]).  This story is an engaging cinematic experience, setting us up for more overt tragedy than is depicted, although the constant threat of sudden exposure, then rapid execution always permeates all the tightly-clamped-down-emotions in the scenes presented, giving us an effective sense of what it must have been like to lead such a dangerous double-life during those wartime years.  In trying to settle on my standard Musical Metaphor to cap off the review, offering a last look from the perspective of another art form, I admit my final choice might seem a bit lacking given the gravity of the life-or-death-situations depicted (I could have asked my Jewish friends for suggestions of appropriate songs/hymns of resistance, but that’s rather disingenuous in that such a choice wouldn’t really come from something I know in my own life), so, limited choice or not, I finally settled on Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” (from his 1st solo album, 1989’s Full Moon Fever).  However, I’ll try to capture some of what I might have gotten from those hymns by using the stripped-down-version of this song from a guy who radiates gravitas like unto the film, Johnny Cash, at  But, you might want a more upbeat rendition to better mirror my intended-uplift-combination of filmic/lyrical-message; if so, then here’s Petty singing his own tune with various-interrelated-collaborators (Mike Campbell [from Petty’s longtime-backup-group, the Heartbreakers], Jeff Lynne and George Harrison [who joined Petty in the Traveling Wilburys supergroup], Ringo Starr [who was in some English band with Harrison; I think the name had something to do with insects]), giving us a final reminder of Antonina and Jan’s risky-but-firm-decision that “You could stand me up at the gates of hell But I won’t back down” because they both “know what’s right […] In a world that keeps on pushin’ [us all] around.”
SHORT(ish) TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
                      Ghost in the Shell (Rupert Sanders)
In futuristic sci-fi Tokyo Hanka Robotics implants the brain of a young woman into a physically-enhanced synthetic body with the intention of her being a powerful weapon on the security force, but when a terrorist starts killing company personnel she learns more than she bargained for when the truth’s revealed about who she really is and how she was created.
 Based loosely on both a good number of original Japanese print manga (graphic novels)* and the previous animated feature ([Mamoru Oshii, 1995] all of which use the same title [although, based on a plot summary I’ve read, the new Ghost … movie's narrative events sound notably different from the 1995 version, which for some reason I’ve never gotten around  to seeing]), this live-action/computer-enhanced futuristic sci-fi tale set in Tokyo takes us to a time where humans not only are often running on synthetic body parts but medical science is on the brink of transplanting human brains into completely synthetic bodies, with the 1st successful one (turns out there were 98 failed prior experiments but that’s not the story she’s been told) being Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) whose enhanced physical abilities (but no extraordinary strength like Captain America) are intended for her new role in the Section 9 security force where her primary task is to locate, then neutralize Kuze (Michael Pitt), a terrorist wreaking havoc on the operations of Hanka Robotics where cyborg-Major’s brain was transplanted into her new, sophisticated, repairable body.  After various scenes of slam-bang-action, Major finally locates the villain, who turns out to be one of the previous-failed-attempts at brain-body-synthesis, taking revenge on those who forcefully created his new-but-botched-existence, including lead scientist Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche); in explaining all this to Major, Kuze helps her overcome the memory-suppressants she’s been fed to prevent her from knowing she was a runaway, Motoko Kusanagi** who, along with other social outcasts, was unwillingly rounded up by Hanka forces as experimental “guinea pigs” against their will a few years ago.  This turns her against Hanka CEO Cutter (Peter Ferdinando).  Kuze and Major then survive an 
attack by Cutter, with the once-called-“terrorist”’s own body-shell destroyed even as his mind goes into a cyber-network he’s created, while our Major Killian suffers “major” injuries (all repairable, though) as Section 9 chief Daisuke Aramaki (“Beat” Takeshi Kitano) finally kills Cutter for crimes against the state.  All of this wraps up as Major/Motoko reunites with her mother (Kaori Momoi), then roars back into action with Section 9 and Batou (Pilou Asbeck) her loyal, caring, hunky, synthetically-eyed (as the result of a much earlier confrontation with Kuze), otherwise-human partner.

*If you prefer the print versions of this sort of sci-fi-thing I'll offer you a recommendation for something called Tokyo Ghost, the cost of which is considerably cheaper than a movie ticket, or you might want to go back to some of the original …Shell manga here which you can also purchase (or get a several-page-free-preview).  As for the 1995 anime movie you can rent/purchase it or simply go to “ghost in the shell anime” on YouTube for several free clips.  (Regarding these rental/purchase options, Two Guys don’t benefit in any manner from such actions on your part, except for knowing that we may have saved you some cash from buying a questionable movie ticket; if you do decide to go to the theater anyway, though, I don’t think you will find that much of additional value in the 3-D version which I saw only for logistics convenience.)

**The … Shell filmmakers have been criticized for casting Johansson in the primary role, the complaint being they should have used a Japanese actor, given the story’s setting and the character’s origin; however (sympathetic as I am to such arguments in proper circumstances), I can’t see the original Major looks all that different from this chosen European-heritage-actor (see the top photo above), just as many Japanese manga/amine characters I see hardly look Asian at all; further, the intention of Hanka leaders was to dupe Major as to her true background (Dr. Ouelet tells her “What we do is what defines us,” not our memories) so it’s logical her body would be formed not to look Japanese, as she now fits in with some other European-heritage members of Section 9.

 You'll find some very interesting (although odd) marketing situations with Ghost in the Shell in that the distributor Paramount apparently chose not to make it available on a wide-basis for advance-viewing-options to critics (a different concept from “advanced critics,” which some would say is an oxymoron)—a grim tactic usually employed when the parent corporation feels little assurance of solid-box-office-response so attempts to mitigate disaster by not allowing a mass of negative reviews to get out before opening day—but did allow some critics access (including Mick LaSalle of my local San Francisco Chronicle, who had a very positive response to the movie's themes and execution); by the time I looked up … Shell on RT and MC, both now with their usual amount of options to consider, I could understand the box-office-trepidation (42% positive reviews at the former, a 53% score at the latter; they were considerably more upbeat about the 1995 version with 96% at RT, 76% at MC [that one based on just 14 reviews, though]) but still don’t comprehend why only a select few got access prior to pre-release (although that didn’t help much with box-office-receipts given the rather-flat $59.1 million worldwide take on opening weekend [$19 million of that from the domestic market] vs. a hefty $110 million production budget).  Another interesting aspect of this new version is the way Major’s body’s presented with seams showing how it’s put together (but no sex-indications, despite those bulging breasts) so she can choose to shed her clothing to fight adversaries in what looks like the nude (Does this give her better mobility of action?), offering enhanced-titillation for the likely audience-demographics without having to risk the box-office-buzz-kill of an R rating; as best I’ve been able to tell from watching clips of the 1995 movie, Major was often shown nude there, but the censors seem a lot more tolerant of nudity when the characters are
animated (most especially if there aren’t big male genitals flopping around on the big screen). To play this sexy cyborg, Johansson’s certainly a fine choice based on both her innate facial appeal (we don’t really see much of her actual body, after all, under that shell) and her solid, well-established acting credentials (even within the limitations of having to portray a not-fully-human-entity in this story, a "woman" who's struggling with limited-self-awareness-issues), although she does suffer the slight disadvantage of seeming here to be a bit repetitious inhabiting this character who's adrift in Tokyo again (as in Lost in Translation [directed by Sofia Coppola, 2003]) as well as one possessing extraordinary, laboratory-created abilities (as we saw before in Lucy [Luc Besson, 2014; review in our July 30, 2014 posting—for that matter, this futuristic setting’s also very reminiscent of Besson’s 1997 The Fifth Element]).

*As you can see from these photos her body shell is sometimes seen as an off-white color distinct from the pinkish-flesh-tones of her head and fingers (maybe Hanka tried to save some $ on full-body-paint), sometimes seems more of the same hue overall to allow (to my interpretation) scenes where in wider shots she appears quasi-nude, others where the filmmakers can argue against such to censors with the more “constructed” body appearance (sort of like a sophisticated pre-fab version of Frankenstein’s monster, with the seams seemingly shown to imply easy access for needed repairs) intended just as an internal-“organs”-covering rather than a true human-like-skin-covering, such as the one Johansson’s alien character wore in the R-rated Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014; review in our April 16, 2014 posting [please try to tolerate the horribly-wordy-layouts in these relatively-long-ago-postings]) where she could be more blatantly-seductive.

 Put all of this together and you have a good number of reasons (after the fact, if you had no earlier reviews to go on prior to buying a ticket) to wonder just what you’re going to get with this new version of Ghost… . Even further after the fact, I can say you’ve still got reason to reconsider getting that too-pricey-ticket if you haven’t already done so.  You won’t find Johansson in her alluring-alien-mode here as she was in Under the Skin—although you do get actual R-rated-nudity there—nor do you find an environment that’s all that original either (this incarnation of Tokyo is very reminiscent of what you see of futuristic L.A. in Blade Runner [Ridley Scott, 1982], just with the addition of gigantic holographic figures on top of buildings and huge projected fish “floating” along the city streets in addition to the building-size-ads familiar from this much-earlier-film).  But, if all you desire in your dark pubic public space is frantic action from a suggestively-naked-female then Ghost in the Shell may be right up your alley (so to speak) but otherwise I’ll just move on by leaving you with the Musical Metaphor of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” (from the 1979 album The Wall) at (here featuring their performance at the Live 8 benefit concert in Hyde Park, London on July 2, 2005, the 1st time Roger Waters rejoined his old bandmates in 24 years; also, as fate had it, their last show together) in reference to the singer/doctor’s question of “Is there anybody in there?” (something Major must wonder about herself until she's able to learn more about her ambiguous past), the encouragement to the subject of the song (and Major) that “There is no pain, you are receding A distant ship smoke on the horizon” so rock star, Pink, being sung to (along with Major) can “keep […] going through the show […] comfortably numb.”  That may be the best way to enjoy this marvelously-visual-yet-thematically-lacking movie as well (despite the opportunity to better explore the concept of humanity transitioning to cyborgs if Hanka’s surgeries keep playing out as intended).
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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*We’re sorry to say that a Google software glitch causes every Two Guys in the Dark posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to the Summary page, but there are too many of them to go back and fix them all.  From 8/26/16 on this link is accurate, with hopefully not too much confusion caused by this latest stupid snafu from the Alphabet overlords’ programming problems.

Here’s more information about The Zookeeper’s Wife: (29:39 discussion of the film from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with director Niki Caro, screenwriter Angela Workman, actor Jessica Chastain, and author of the original 2007 book, Diane Ackerman)

Here’s more information about Ghost in the Shell: (15:13 problems with the animated feature of Ghost in the Shell just to show that this beloved classic has complaints just like the current remake [at least from the perspective of this video’s investigator], possibly the foundations for what’s wrong with the new version [I’ll have to leave that decision to those who know the earlier movie, as I don’t beyond what I’m seeing in this video critique of it])

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken*

*Please note that YouTube keeps taking down various versions of this majestic Eagles performance at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so I have to keep putting in newer links (of the same damn material) to retrieve it; this “Hotel California” link was active when I did this posting but the song won’t be available in all of our previous ones done before 2/16/2017.  Sorry, but there are too many postings to go back and re-link every one.  The corporate overlords triumph again.

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.

Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 21,090; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:


  1. Zookeeper is, in fact, an excellent film which many in America probably need as a refresher to history. Now that Trump's press secretary has been outed as a Holocaust denier with his recent "uplifting" remarks about how Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people (even though many of the Jews gassed were in fact German), the film strikes a more relevant tone this week. Regardless, Jessica Chastain is worth the price of admission.

  2. Hi rj, My apologies this took so long to get posted; I just inadvertently found it in a Moderation folder while looking for something else. The Press Secretary specifics (ridiculous as they are) were more appropriate back in April when the now-forgotten Mr. Spicer was behind the podium but the general reality which you note (including Chastain's performance) never goes out of relevance. Ken