“Morgan”—Science Embedded in Sci-Fi

Viewers of science fiction movies have an interest in the scientific ideas driving the plot. In the sci-fi movie, “Morgan”, (http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/morgan) a computer captures Morgan’s behavior with the intention of giving an in-depth understanding of the science behind artificial intelligence.

For years a team of scientific researchers have been at work creating, developing and observing artificial humans. Morgan is their latest prototype. The group of people charged with Morgan’s care were optimistic about the advanced development of its artificial intelligence. Although only five human years old, Morgan appears to be about twelve. There is a reason the central character in the movie “Morgan” has a genderless name. In the movie the main character, Morgan,is referred to as “it”, the product of secretive scientific research at a remote facility. After an unexpected and horrific incident occurs, a risk assessment employee (Kate Mara) from corporate headquarters arrives to investigate, her very presence increasing the tension and drama, moving the plot forward.

Anya Taylor-Joy effectively played Morgan as a haunted creation, trying to understand the world, and how to live in it. The movie’s most compelling character, Morgan’s movements and haunted, expressive face are unforgettable and stay with this viewer long after the movie ended.

Although “Morgan” has some good performances, it lacks character development that mirrors the flaws of some science fiction prose. The characters are flat at times and one-dimensional. Dr. Alan Shapiro (Paul Giamatti) and Dr. Amy Menser (Rose Leslie) could have been more fully developed personalities with clearly defined motives.

This is a movie for sci-fi lovers but not on the level of “Ex Machina”.

Lenore Gay, guest blogger

This post was written by Lenore Gay, author of Shelter of Leaves, a suspenseful novel about a dystopia reality in the aftermath of terrorism. Lenore was gracious enough to cover for me while I was on vacation.Go to her author website: www.lenoregay.com for more information about her writing.

“Slavery by Another Name”—The Re-enslavement of Black Americans in the US



This 90-minute PBS documentary, based upon the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas Blackmon, eviscerates one of America’s most cherished myths: the belief that slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. “Slavery by Another Name” documents how thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality, sanctioned by the judicial and legislative system, and propelled by the loss of slave labor after the Civil War.


African Americans were systematically charged for petty crimes, and sentenced to hard labor working for former white slave owners. “Convict leasing” became “Slavery by Another Name”, coercing African American “convicts” to work on chain-gangs and for major corporations. A form of “industrial slavery”, these purported convicts, who worked on month-to-month leases, were used and disposed of at will. Moreover, the brutality imposed on “prisoners” in the last part of the 19th and first half of the 20th century was identical to that used against slaves prior to the Civil War. The mortality rate was as high as 30-40% or more. No records were kept.

One strategy to recreate the slave economy was the creation of the crime of “vagrancy”. This provided a steady supply of “vagrants” forced to work off their sentences under heinous labor conditions. Convicts were repeatedly bought and sold throughout their sentences, again to former white slave-masters and industrialists. Replacing the outlawed debt slavery or peonage, convict leasing resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate profit. Tolerated by both the North and South as essential for raising the gross domestic product and propelling the United States to unprecedented economic power, this form of industrial slavery did not begin to decrease until the Second World War [motivated in part by the Japanese intention to use US racism to justify their own military actions] and the need for African American soldiers.

Deeply moving, fascinating, and repugnant all at the same time, “Slavery By Another Name” opens our eyes to the deliberate exploitation of African Americans. A courageous refutation of the ongoing myth that “Lincoln freed the slaves,” the documentary “Slavery By Another Name” demonstrates that slavery survived long past emancipation, until less than eighty years ago.

Conveniently overlooked by the nation and perpetrated across an enormous region over many years, the institution of forced labor as a fixture of African American life perniciously suffocated their aspirations and opportunities for their families and their very existence. This documentary film should be a required history lesson for us all.

“Weiner” — An Attention-Getter



Hubris, narcissism, tabloid spectacle and massive self-deception collide with the mesmerizing inevitability of a slow-motion trainwreck in “Weiner”. The movie is an engrossing, almost shamefully entertaining documentary about former congressman Anthony Weiner and politics at its most sensationalist and superficial.

After a promising career as a rising Democratic star that began as New York’s youngest city council member, Anthony Weiner became perhaps better known as the pugnacious, delusional punch line for his dick pics in a Twitter account to a college student in 2011. He resigned from the House of Representatives and two years later, in his bid for a political comeback, running for mayor of New York, he gained only 4 % of the vote.

Released in May, “Wiener” is  an IFC documentary with exceptional access bordering on voyeurism. We view campaign headquarters, eavesdrop on strategy meetings with his staffers, and witness the heartbreaking, humiliating experience of a breakdown of the political marriage.

“Weiner” pivots from the narrative of a comeback “kid” to the horror of an appalling, self-deluding narcissist’s quest for power at its most obsessive and incomprehensible level.

The questions the documentary implicitly promises to answer all begin with “why.” Why would a rising star squander his political capital by outrageous and compulsive behavior we might forgive in a teenage boy but not in a middle-aged politician? Why does he seem so insensitive or uncaring about his beautiful, intelligent wife at turns bullying her and humiliating her in front of a camera?

And most puzzling of all, why does the gorgeous and supremely talented Huma Abedin seem a victim of spousal abuse, reserved and resolute as Alicia Florrick in the TV series, “The Good Wife”? She rarely refuses his most callous requests. We cheer when Huma refuses to go with him to the polls on election day, so Weiner takes their infant son as a humanizing prop. And when he again breaks his promise and is caught sexting, we are relieved to see Huma refuse to stand next to him.

“Weiner” answers these questions tentatively. He is a glutton for punishment, who craves any attention, no matter how cringe-worthy.

Why does Anthony Weiner allow the camera to film him and his wife in excrutiatingly painful and intimate moments, immediately after Huma discovers his betrayal?   The implication is that, in spite of his sexual predilections derailing his bid to be mayor, Weiner is also “certifiably” delusional. He is incapable of seeing himself the way others see him: as a loser with disturbing character flaws unfit for political office. For him there seems to have been no risk-taking. Filming the documentary would justify his actions, not condemn them…in his mind.

And equally unsettling and flabbergasting: Why did Huma Abedin endure this treatment from her husband, and in front of their son? While Weiner is the paradigm for extremely poor judgment, lack of anger management and impulse control, Huma remains enigmatic.   The moments in the film where Huma is humiliated and her eyes reflect her deep sorrow and regret  may make viewers disheartened as well as puzzled.

Weiner seems incapable of self-reflection or taking responsibility for the harm to his family, especially when he is communicating face-to-face with his wife. Weiner’s deep delusions we can understand as a clinical diagnosis but what does Huma feel? She remains dignified but defeated.

Why would Huma Abedin allow this mortification? That is the ultimate mystery of this documentary.

We think we know the story, but we don’t.


“The Broad”—A Vast Expansion of Modern Art



The Broad Museum, funded by billionaire philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, is one of the hottest tickets in downtown Los Angeles. Just scan the huge stand-by crowds for tickets (which are free) on a weekday early in the afternoon. Maybe they heard about the special selfie opportunities?

The millennial crowd seems to  swipe patiently on their iPhones while eating from food trucks parked in front of the giant white building. Origami-like corrugated folds covering a vault-like interior with glass elevator and escalator, The Broad’s architecture accentuates the contemporary art inside.

Housing more than 2,000 works of art (with about 200 displayed on rotation), this stunning museum exhibits some of the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide. With its innovative “veil-and-vault” concept, the 120,000-square-foot, $140-million building features two floors of gallery space to showcase iconic examples of the prime works of Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Takashi Murakami—to name a few.


I was left speechless by the special exhibit of Cindy Sherman’s body of work. Featuring her earliest black-and-white photos to images completed this year, this expansive exhibit extends over all of her major periods. We see her chameleon-like transition as she interprets different social themes using herself as the model—woman as sex object, victim, warrior, society matron. This is nothing less than spectacular. [The exhibit closes October 2 and advance reservations are highly recommended.]

Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman

The social media star at The Broad is undoubtedly “Infinity Mirrored Room”, the creation of Yayoi Kusama (better known for her polka dots). With its colorful blitz of glimmering outer-spacelike points of light, it resembles the LACMA’s “Rain Room” exhibit. [The singer Adele filmed a music video inside Kusama’s installation.]  “Infinitely Mirrored Room”  is a selfie magnet for posting on  Facebook and Instagram. The other popular selfie is the gigantic ten-foot-tall wooden sculpture “Under the Table” by Robert Therrien.

One of my hands-down favorite works is Murakami’s 82-foot-long mural “In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow”, featuring demons, dragons and mythic Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian figures roiling in a tsunami. This has been one of the Broad’s biggest attractions for children and teenagers.  His “Red Blood, Black Blood”, is also a mesmerizing painting.


Breathtaking in beauty, The Broad rivals any contemporary art museum I have ever visited (including MOMA in San Francisco, NewYork and Los Angeles, London’s Tate Modern, Chicago’s Contemporary Museum of Art, New York’s Guggenheim and Whitney.) As the preeminent museum for featuring the ever-growing popularity of younger artists, The Broad provokes and challenges our appreciation of art in our own era. Reserve your tickets now!