Happiness is a Protective Cup

DATELINE: Chernobyl Goes to Dogs

up on the roof Suicide by Radiation?

Young conscripts sent to the Chernobyl disaster are given crude and useless cups for their scrota. It won’t help. They are not told the truth of the dangers of their mission, though it may not be hard to figure out.

The despondent faces of the young men ordered to commit suicide is quite evident.

Yet, critics of this series noted that the Russians in the series use the wrong type of drinking glass for vodka. Yikes! your world is ending! The type of glassware you select seems a minor consideration.

Episode 4 of Chernobyl reaches an apex of appalling. Cheap and homemade lead cups are tied loosely around the underside of young soldiers as they walk around camp.

Soviet bureaucrats begin to rebel against a mentality of their leaders to hide the notion that the Soviet empire can do anything wrong. It may be the last straw that will lead to the fall of the Communist rule.

One group’s job is to go into deserted and evacuated towns and shoot the stray dogs and cats that are dangerously radioactive. It is part of the mental strain that can break men.

In the meantime, Stellan Skarsgard and Jared Harris want to use lunar robots to push graphite off the roof of the power plant. However, the Soviet leadership will not accept American help (only West German)—and they provide false information to the Germans, who make a rover that cannot withstand radiation.

It leads to the most horrific of all concepts: bio-robots. Men will go into the roof area to sweep up the most radioactive debris. They will likely be dead in a short time, especially figuring on the thin lead aprons and headcovers.

If you fall during the job, you are likely to be dead before the sun sets.

A Russian general gives each man his pay at day’s end and wishes them “good health and long life,” knowing full well that neither will be available after their work.

 

 

Say Ahhh, Chernobyl

DATELINE:  HBO Series, Episode 3

stellan Stellan Skarsgard as Boris.

Episode 3 of the HBO series about the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl continues to depress and to create outrage. Though the Soviet regime handles it with usual ant colony efficiency, there is something horrifying about people being “asked” to commit suicide to save humanity.

One wonders how different it would have been if Three Mile Island were on a par with Chernobyl.

Perhaps there will always be those who will involuntarily volunteer, their bravery is inexplicable. The drab veneer of communist life hardly inspires sacrifice.

Smoking cigarettes for everyday Soviets appears nearly as deadly and commonplace as radiation poisoning.

Jared Harris, son of movie star Richard Harris as the nuclear physicist closest to the crisis, looks like he has already been exposed to some deadly radiation. His growing irritation with non-experts making decisions about life and death may be the biggest surprise in Soviet life.

Challenges openly to Gorbachev in front of the head of KGB is considered fair play as Stellan Skarsgad notes that the scientist is regarded as a harmless fool. Otherwise, he would be in big trouble.

The performers cannot be faulted for presenting dire nausea as the bottom line of their performances as they watch people rot away—and know their own deaths will be delayed, as they have kept a slight distance from the worst.

To say you need to evacuate millions of people from radiation poisoning makes Jared Harris ridiculous and dismissed. The fictional woman played by Emily Watson is arrested by KGB. Coverup is a hard game to play.

Ignorance is bliss, for many think they have superficial burns. Yet, others know there is some kind of death sentence coming instantly after exposure for a short time. One young woman won’t leave her fireman husband, touching and hugging him despite pregnancy and sure devastation to come.

The meltdown is coming—and conscripts of young men, dour and worried, are the front line of defense for the world.

The proximity to doomsday permeates this little miniseries. It is a cautionary tale that helps no one.

 

Those about to Die: Remain Calm

 DATELINE: What a Life!

emily watson Fictional Emily Watson?

 

The sheer horror of Chernobyl grows as the coverups are uncovered. Minor bureaucrats dispute the severity of nuclear destruction, out of sheer willful self-protection.

By the time this crisis is tossed into Gorbachev’s lap, as the head of the Soviet Union, he is faced with horrible options. As the second episode shows him dealing with giving a death sentence to three workers who must sacrifice their lives to go into a radioactive cavern on fire.

Jared Harris is the physicist who is indignant and ultimately convincing. Emily Watson first appears in this episode as the woman nuclear physicist who best understands what annihilation the world is facing.

Alas, she is a complete fiction as a character, being a composite of a half-dozen female scientists. It is another means of demeaning women while pretending to elevate one to heroic levels. There could never be a half-dozen heroic women.

The evacuation of the city around the burning radioactive power plant is quite impressive, after the authorities learn that the equivalent of millions of X-rays is hitting everyone with a few miles to start.

By seventy-two hours, they could be facing the deaths of 60 million people in the Kiev area.

The grim atmosphere of Russian society is enhanced by its poor living conditions and helpless population. As the opening show indicated, enough lies told will inoculate people to feelings about truth.

There are not enough iodine pills—and there is nowhere to go: the silent and invisible radiation is shooting skyward to come down with the rains.

This is dramatic and horrifying to say the least, and a lesson in how close to self-destruction the human race came in 1986.

Watching this five-part series is not uplifting, or educational. It is simply numbing.

 
 

 

Not So Happy Prince

DATELINE: Last Days of Oscar Wilde

Bosie & Oscar Morgan & Everett as Bosie & Oscar.

A movie about the last years of Oscar Wilde will hardly be a witty or charming piece of fluff. It is the stuff of tragedy, and director and star Rupert Everett does a masterful job presenting the sad, horrific last days of the most glorious wit of the 19th century.

The Happy Prince, of the film’s title, is a children’s tale that Wilde recounts several times for his own boys and for waifs he encounters in Paris.

Wilde is brutalized by publicity and a public that turns on him, bashing him as he descends into poverty and pathos.

Wilde’s sudden decline after two years at hard labor for his crime of love without a name is appalling to behold. At first, he is a beaten man of 45, but events turn him into a bloated, aging, suffering man with some kind of encephalitis. Loyal friends try to collect donations to keep him going, and he seems to promise to write again: but has lost his muse and impetus.

If there is a monster here, it is always Bosie, Alfred Lord Douglas, so cruel and so beautiful who abandons Oscar to squalor after a last fling in Capri. In a most unsympathetic role, Colin Morgan seems apt as the capricious flirt. Emily Watson is the beleaguered Constance, Wilde’s wife, who shuts him off ultimately and unwillingly without a farthing.

Edwin Thomas, as Robbie Ross, and Colin Firth, as Reggie Turner, are loyal to the end, as Wilde goes out on his terms of throwing caution and talent to the wind.

Tragic and unhappy though this biopic is, Everett is deft in his portrayal and his direction, making this a tour-de-force of conviction as well as acting. As a cautionary tale, the lessons are hard to face, but brilliantly conceived and played out.