Best TV Shows With Subtitles

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Best TV Shows With Subtitles

“On Friday night, I was reading my new book, but my brain got tired, so I decided to watch some television instead.”  Stephen Chbosky

Since I can’t actually travel right now, I’m traveling to a different country, one TV series at a time. These shows take me to different places and different cultures. As the virus continues, I’m sure I will be adding more to this list.

Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories (Japan) Netflix

I used to love eating after midnight in college. There’s something about eating with people at odd hours that inclines one toward romance or deep philosophical discussion.
Based on the manga of the same name, the story follows a man who owns an izakaya in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, (translated into diner) which is open from midnight-7AM. Each episode follows the story of a customer with ties to a particular dish from his past. The diner serves as a meeting place for the episode’s featured characters, while the owner—referred to only as “Master”—offers sage, down-to-earth advice. The patrons range in backgrounds, from taxi drivers to physicists, writers, actors, gamblers, gang members, drag queens and strippers. There are several regulars who appear in each episode and interact with the featured character. There is nothing epic in the stories and the characters are often based on stereotypes. What I particularly love is that the setting allows them to let their guard down organically, alone in a small diner in the early morning, with no one but the proprietor to intrude on their journey of self-discovery. It facilitates a sense of separateness—almost outside of reality—where people who might otherwise be considered nobodies or oddballs can express and share their humanity. It is our favorite show. In these troubled times, it reminds us that everyone has a story and reflects a truth of what it means to be human.

Shtisel (Israel) Netflix

Shtisel is a drama featuring an ultra Orthodox family in the Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem. The depiction of ultra-Orthodox Jewish culture is just fascinating. At the heart of “Shtisel” is the relationship between Shulem Shtisel, a recently widowed religious school principal, and his youngest son, Akiva, a bachelor who still lives at home. There is true love between them, but their relationship is fraught with tension over Akiva’s still being single, as well as over his preference for making art instead of studying and teaching Torah. The other main plot lines deal with Giti, one of Shulem’s daughters, and her family. Her husband, Lipa, overwhelmed with the responsibilities of supporting a large family, goes abroad (ostensibly for a job) and disappears for months. Left to raise and financially support the children on her own, Giti almost falls apart under the strain. Additional strands of the dramatic narrative involve other members of the extended Shtisel family and their friends and neighbors in Geula. The Haredi lifestyle is presented as a given, and by and large the characters do not strain against its strictures. At the same time, the series does not shy away from dealing with real-life issues and the fact that all of them have “vices”. The peculiarity and foreignness of the show combined with the universal and familiar feeling of what goes on in families completely won me over. I watched it once by myself and again with the BF who also loved it.

Broadchurch (United Kingdom) Netflix

I discovered Broadchurch by accident. Like True Detective, Season One revolves around one murder case. I was on the edge of my seat trying to guess who murdered Danny Latimer. Everyone looks suspicious. Each time I thought I knew who the murderer was, a new clue came up and secrets popped out and I had to guess again. i watch a lot of detective shows and I’m pretty good at figuring out the culprit but this one had me stumped. Broadchurch was the most popular show in The UK when it came out and I can see why. The cast is superb led by Academy Award winner Olivia Colman and David Tennant. It is a fully immersive drama that will grip you from the first episode. Unfortunately, the other two seasons are not as good. But, the character development is brilliant and they have great chemistry, so I stuck with them. Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Charlotte Rampling appear in the second season. The natural beauty of the town (the Jurassic coast-now on my list of places to go) and the people that populate Broadchurch allow it to rise above the usual detective series.

Made In Heaven (India) Amazon

I absolutely adore Made In Heaven and can’t wait for Season 2. The story follows Karan and Tara as they manage their wedding planning business of the same name. It seems like a very real take on the wedding industry of the very rich in India. Each episode focuses on a different, unbelievably beautiful wedding while the characters navigate their very complicated lives. Kabir and Jaspreet work for Made In Heaven and are dealing with complications of their own. Kabir often narrates the videos of the weddings and they’re always wonderful observations and really tug at your heart. Each wedding tells a story of India, undisguised and unsweetened. They don’t shy away from politics or religion and there is always a message of hope.

Bordertown (Finland) Netflix

Bordertown follows Kari Sorjonen, a shockingly great detective (definitely on the spectrum), who decides he needs a break from the horrors he sees everyday in Helsinki. This is understandable as no horror is too scary for this show. Kari moves his sick wife and teenage daughter to a family house in Lappeenranta, a town that borders the edges of Finland and Russia. At first it seems nice. However, if you’re in a crime drama, things are never nice for long. Though Bordertown has the brooding, dark environments and intense acting of similar shows, the series is more of a family-focused drama with a killer on the loose. There are horrific crimes happening in the background — almost all of them are done to young, sexualized women. The main narrative is about this one tired, brilliant investigator who just wants to have dinner with his family. I loved the first two seasons but I couldn’t make it through the first episode of the third season. It became way too dark and gory for me.

Fauda (Israel)  Netflix

An Israeli show about an elite team of commandos looking to infiltrate a terrorist group with ticking time bombs and evil masterminds does not seem all that different from many post 9/11 shows. What makes it different and worth watching is the relationships between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It shows a bit more realistic portrayal of how they are willingly and unwillingly entangled into each others lives. Fauda follows a group of Israeli undercover agents, known as mista’arvim, who carry out counter-terror operations in the West Bank by blending in to become indistinguishable from local Palestinian residents. I think it does a good job of showing both the good and the bad on both sides. . It is clear that the two sides are past the point of no return in being able to coexist, yet they cannot bring themselves to do what is needed to end their mutually destructive relationship. The cast and directors are both Israeli and Palestinian and though there are many political critiques it is definitely a binge watch.

Henning Mankell’s Wallender (Sweden) Netflix

Wallander is the popular 62-year-old hero of a group of novels by Henning Mankell, the best-selling Swedish crime novelist. The inspector lives alone, except for his beloved dog, tends to be morose, is a good cop and a liberal idealist. Detective Wallander is both the beat-up and dysfunctional ex-husband/son/father and a professional who makes honest, human mistakes, but sticks around to see the job through. The BBC made the show as well starring Kenneth Branagh but I watched the original in Swedish. Each episode is an hour and a half and the first season is apparently movies that were based on the different books. In the first episode, Wallander’s daughter Linda returns to Ystad having successfully graduated police training. The difficult relationship between father and daughter is now further complicated by having them work together. I highly recommend watching season one. I get the feeling the other seasons were made into a TV show which was very different than season one and they don’t work as well. I like the casting-they seem more like ordinary people than actors which makes the stories more believable.

Hinterland (Wales) Netflix

Hinterland is set in Aberystwyth, Wales. Speaking scenes were filmed twice, once in English and once in Welsh and was released in both languages. The accent was hard for me but then I got used to it. The series is full of silence. These are not talkative people. They live in a brooding, windswept barren place filled with secrets. And they have their own secrets as well. Tom Mathias stars as a recent addition to the police department in this small coastal town. Mathias is not inclined to explain himself to his officers and they are often left to try to read his mind in hopes of understanding why the investigation is going as it is. He is dedicated to being the tragic figure in this series. Mared Rhys, his partner and an experienced police officer herself, has her own problems. The photography of Western Wales is beautiful but doesn’t look like a place you would want to visit in winter. There are five episodes per season and if you can stick through it to the end of season three, the payoff is good.

Call My Agent (France) Netflix

Call My Agent is about a film talent agency called ASK, and revolves around the agents, their assistants and the film stars they work for. The episodes are filled with gossip, drama and likable relatable characters. In each episode French actors play themselves as clients of the agency. The day-to-day problems are relatively unimportant: the agents are faced with non-compliant actors, try to disseminate false rumors, attempt to reconcile co-stars who have fallen out, wrestle with tarnishing media stories… As well as these behind-the-curtain dramas of the stars, the agents’ private lives are also wrought with entertaining relationship dramas and personal dilemmas. It is a highly, binge worthy watch and just what you need in dark times.

Merli (Spain) (Catalan) Netflix

In the style of “Dead Poets Society,” Merli tells the story of a philosophy teacher in a public secondary school who opens his students minds and makes them question things in a very unorthodox way. His son who has grown up with his mother, now lives with Merli and his grandmother, and is in his class. Every episode is named for a new philosopher. I like the premise but in each episode Merli seems to care more and more about himself. It is less about a great teacher and more about a selfish man that uses his knowledge to justify his actions. Yet for some reason, he still seems to be a good teacher, inspiring his students. There is only one season so it is not a huge commitment and I like watching it. I couldn’t find a trailer with subtitles (the show has them) but you get the idea.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

The Voice Heard Round The World

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The Voice Heard Round The World

‘Where words fail, music speaks.’ Hans Christian Andersen

I love to be able to travel when I am home. I watch The Voice. Reality TV and coffee are my vices. If you happen to live under a rock, it is a singing competition with celebrity judges. I love the Blind Auditions where the judges have to pick their team by hearing them. The audition is the only reality TV that we have left. You can’t fake an audition. You are actually watching someone vulnerable who’s life can be changed. I like seeing new talent emerge.

One night I was trying to catch up on some auditions, and I came across videos of blind auditions from The Voice Around The World. I was hooked. I’m obsessed with the Italian and the French judges. The Ukrainians and the Russians love heavy metal music and they like to make comments.  The Voice originated in Holland. I have no idea who any of these judges are. I watch the British version now as well. Here are my favorite auditions in no particular order. One is a battle round.

italy, France, Germany, Australia, Ukraine, UK, China, Russia, Holland, Poland.

Music always makes me feel that we are more the same than different.

Fly safe

JAZ

Politics At the Academy Awards In Los Angeles

Politics at the Academy Awards In Los Angeles

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” Winston S. Churchill

First part written on Saturday

I do usually cringe when celebrities use award shows to promote their political views. Trump is all Americans talk about these days anyway so I don’t think we will get though the Academy Awards without him. The Trump supporters will be disgusted by the out of touch Hollywood elitists who are trying to tell the normal people what to do. The liberals will say the overpaid celebrities are making it worse. The ceremony takes place in California and Hilary won easily here so we pretty much know how they feel. I think a few will be brilliant and most won’t. Something political will happen with best Foreign Film.  I liked Salesman the best  so I’m hoping for a win. It would be cool if Moonlight won.  Jimmy Kimmel is a given for political commentary, though he will probably tone it down for the event.  I hope it doesn’t turn into and the best anti Trump moment is. I think the speeches will be more about inclusion and diversity. Some of us are still PC.

To be continued tomorrow

Sunday

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The show was a bit more stripped down and low-key than usual. It was going along smoothly and predictably. Everyone I wanted was winning. Jimmy Kimmel was the Greek chorus. A lot of it was expected  but he had a few really funny lines. In his praise of Meryl Streep for  her many overrated and underwhelming performances (Trump tweet), he asked if she was wearing an Ivanka? He told  all the people who worked for CNN and anyone with the word Times in their job – even Medieval to leave the room.

Viola’s speech was better than even I thought it would be. August Wilson would have been proud. Salesman won which it should have. The most powerful political statement of the evening  was read for the film’s director Asghar Farhadi who did not come in protest of the travel ban. All the “immigrants’ (I know because they said they were immigrants – I wasn’t judging)  expressed their disapproval and solidarity.

 Hollywood did what it does best at the Oscars. Hollywood celebrated its own with beautiful dresses, humor, reverence and appreciation. The attention was focused on the people in the room and the magic and healing of movies. Candy was flying everywhere. 

The reality is that I’ve always been a fan of the simple thank you at award shows. It was a simple thank you kind of night.

And then Oscar history was made. Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally announced the wrong winner for best picture. I was worried when they came on. Warren always seems dazed to me and they are both way too vain to wear their glasses onstage. I was expecting some uncomfortable banter about that.  After La La Land’s producers made their thank you speeches, they were told it was a mistake and Moonlight had won. “This is not a joke.” and I quote.  Everyone was as dazed and confused as Warren (who apparently had been handed the wrong envelope).  It was a perfect Hollywood Ending with a twist.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Anthony Bourdain, I Love You

Anthony Bourdain, I Love You

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”   Gilbert K. Chesterton 

I am obsessed with Parts Unknown starring Anthony Bourdain. He goes to places that I have been and loved like Peru , Myanmar  and Canada or are on my wish list like Colombia. He goes to places I am afraid to go to like Libya, but wish I was brave enough because it looks fascinating.

I never cared for him until this show. He seemed like a pompous, obnoxious, watch me eat a two-headed tarantula on  a stick for fame and attention kind of guy.  Being a complete germaphobe /food and water police traveler, I  admire his food fearlessness.

I hope it doesn’t end up being a Paula Deen thing where he has hidden the fact that he has contracted a  fatal parasite and only has a few months to live….. but  watch him eat this fried dough with the flies around it  in  Tangiers before he goes.

I love the show itself – the way it tells the stories, history and current  events of these interesting countries, and of course the food.   Sometimes the food is the focus. Sometimes it is the events.

My obsession with the show started in the first episode. I had been to Myanmar. I opted to fly around the country. Bourdain was far more obnoxious, impatient and mean as a Top Chef judge then he was on a nineteen hour train ride in Myanmar. (Though I would like to see the uncut footage).  He  went with the flow and ate something weird when he could.  (Not hard to do in Burma) He wasn’t afraid to talk about the politics and “black zones.” He showed it the way it is.

I know that this is an obsession because after the first show (which I have seen a few times) I liked their facebook page. I might have even written comments a few times – ok, every time. I think I watched some of the videos they post as well. “My friend” may have read all the comments.

I have learned how to make drugs in Tangiers while wearing a  mask.  I’m rereading William Burroughs. I have cried when looking at the photos taped on a wall of the war victims in Libya.  I found out  that the planes I flew on in Myanmar are called “flying coffins.” (I knew they weren’t federally regulated but I’m glad I didn’t hear that until I returned).  I worried about the overweight, nice Canadians who were eating all that meat and fois gras. I planned my trip to Colombia when watching this episode.

I have learned some things about Anthony Bourdain. He was a drug addict. He has a bracelet from the Congo given to him by an African King.  He likes shamans. He doesn’t like people with guns around him.   He does have  a heart.  He acts like he needs a cigarette at all times – not sure if he still smokes.  He tried some weird driving thing in East LA that I have never seen before, and I live here.  He probably doesn’t  like vegetarians unless they live in third world countries. The man can eat anything under any circumstances.( I can’t wait for them to do Afghanistan.)  He is a chef with a  food career traveling around the world doing cool, interesting things and not cooking.

“Who smokes hashish at this table?”  And if so,  fly safe,

JAZ

Locked Up Abroad

Locked Up Abroad

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”3RRKN5MDAMWC

Rita Mae Brown

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is watching “Locked up Abroad.”  It airs on the National Geographic channel –a channel that usually has shows that promote travel, not paranoia. There are always  marathons or at least back to back episodes.   They are true stories of people who have been put into a prison in a foreign country.  Most of the time they are smuggling drugs.  You can smuggle drugs from many different countries.

The stories are narrated by the actual people. It is followed by a reenactment of their story  played by actors.  Once in a while they play themselves. Sometimes they  are real actors, who have made bad life choices.

There is always that moment  in the show when they are walking through the airport with pounds of cocaine strapped to their waist or hidden in their suitcase. Sometimes they make that one wrong phone call. I get a pit in my stomach and start saying “No, don’t do it, don’t do it. “  But they always do.

We go with them to prison and we get to see what life is like in the different prisons of the world. We  experience the legal system in third world countries. I always feel sorry for  them –  even though what they did was wrong.

The worst stories are when it isn’t drugs. I can deal with the smugglers but  it is hard watching the hostages and kidnapped victims.  If you have the travel bug, these episodes can knock it out of you – immediately.    The UN Peacekeepers come under fire in Sierra Leone from the brutal rebels.(that was a really difficult one to watch) .  An Australian girl is in the wrong place at the wrong time. She   is wrongfully accused of something and ends up in prison where no one speaks English for twenty years. Backpackers are hiking through the Darien rainforest between Panama and Colombia and get caught by guerillas.

There is the Hasidic King of Coke who ends up in a Brazilian prison, (you can’t make this stuff up), the smuggler who gets mistaken for a terrorist in El Salvador and the American girl in prison in Bangladesh  for drug smuggling with no hope of parole. Life in a Nepalese prison is detailed by a professional magician who got caught trying to smuggle hashish out of the country. There are people  smuggling heroin in Russia, who end up in in a Gulag in the seventies. A woman is set up by the drug cartels and goes to prison in Columbia. The life inside Venezuela’s notorious Los Teques Prison is told by an Irish man who was arrested at the Caracas airport for trying to smuggle cocaine back to Dublin.

I have learned many important  facts about traveling from this show. . Never buy illegal drugs in Mexico using fake money.  Don’t smuggle alcohol into Saudi Arabia. Don’t talk to any missionaries on the plane to Manila.  If someone asks you to bring gold into Argentina, they really mean cocaine.  Don’t travel to Pakistan and the Silk Road with your estranged father if he happens to be a drug smuggler. If your friend surprises you with an all expense paid vacation to Peru and has an extra suitcase when you get to the airport, run away.  It seems that there are women who are  willing to take incredible risks for a free vacation.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned and Loved at the 2012 Summer Olympics

Citius, altius, fortius”  (Faster, Higher, Stronger)

motto of the Olympic Games:

Things I Have Learned  and Loved at the  2012 Summer Olympics

I love the Olympics. I love the Opening Ceremonies with the spectacle of creativity and tradition. I love the Parade of Countries. I love the events. For seventeen days I watch as much as I can. I don’t really like sports so I don’t understand where this obsession comes from.   No event is too insignificant for me to watch if I am home. After seventeen days, at the closing ceremonies, I am emotionally exhausted from all the pressure.  I am just as  happy  as the host country  is,  that they are going home.

Every host country has the cutest and most children performing. Who knew there were so many adorable childrens’ choirs in the world? (  China  didn’t and decided to have their cuter child lip sync a less cute child with a better voice.)

Any  Opening Ceremony  directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting), that starts with Kenneth Branagh quoting from The Tempest, brings the Queen Mum in with James Bond, and ends with Paul McCartney singing  Hey Jude is my kind of sporting event.

I love those 81 countries who have never won a medal and really are “just pleased to be nominated.” They are the happiest and proudest people walking in the Parade of  Nations.

Mr Bean  can play Chariots of Fire on the piano.

I learned several new countries in that parade – Djibouti, Dominia, Burkina Fasos, Comorros, Kiribati, Lesotho, Nauru, Moldovo, Sao Tome and Principe and Turkmenistan.

There were nightmares at the Olympics-  a weird and dark element that doesnt really make any sense unless you are Charles Dickens.

I enjoy seeing the countries I haven’t been to because it gives me a taste of the people who live in them. I love how they are all taking video of themselves , each other and the stadium as they march in. Their excitement  is so contagious, that I root for all of them.

I am suddenly interested in the Olympic Trivia.   Denmark is the most competitive in badminton. Some of the Muslims will fast because it is Ramadan. The others will fast later. A few will fast except on the days they compete.  It is the first time that Saudi Arabia sent women athletes. Bangladesh has the largest amount of athletes of the countries who have never won.  The United States has won way more Olympic Gold Medals than anyone else. China has thousands to catch up with. The NBC Pavilion has a Wolfgang Puck Café.

My favorite Olympic commercial is United Airlines “We move them before they move us.” It’s a true Hallmark card moment. ( and they play George Gershwin’s American in Paris)

It is a great Olympic Ceremony that includes  Clash, the Rolling Stones, Queen, the Sex Pistols and David Bowie .

“Its kind of a cool thing to do the best gymnastics of your life at the Olympics” – quote from the TV commentator…… uh,yeah.

Its very hard to medal in the swimming competition if you are in lane 8. It rarely happens – sorry Michael  Phelps. But congratulations on winning the most Olympic medals ever.

I tear up at the back stories and the medal ceremonies. I love watching their faces when they play the National Anthem of the winning country. None of them ever know all the words to their National Anthems.

I hate the nerves. There was a lot of slipping and falling  in men’s gymmastics by a lot of world champions. Women’s gymnastics was an emotional roller coaster . I cried with Jordyn Weiber . I cried with the Russians.  I was jumping up and down when the Americans won the gold. I am a wreck.

I love the crazy parents. Its the ultimate Reality TV.

I get caught up in the mystery surrounding who will be the last person to carry the flame and light the torch.  I usually have no idea who the person is, but it doesn’t matter.  I knew who David Beckham was.   I did not know Steve Redgrave, a five time Olympic Gold Medalist in Rowing.   There are no media scandals surrounding him. It is an event that is not televised in the US (unless it is at three in the morning)  .

The British added humor and wonder to the Chinese spectacle that no one thought they could top. (apparently there are many people who thought they didn’t)  I love the Opening Ceremony competition. So, bring it on Brazil.

Fly Safe

JAZ

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Rick Steves -Love Him or Hate Him?

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”               Mark Twain

I have this hate love affair with Rick Steves. Rick Steves is the host of Rick Steves Europe on American Public Television and Public Radio.  He has published many guide books. On the surface , we have nothing  in common.

Rick travels around Europe with a backpack or carry on luggage (which never looks very heavy). He wears relaxed comfortable clothing and sensible footwear.  He motors through countrysides finding quaint inns and farmhouses to stay in.  He is always looking at something old. He goes to places that we have been to or would like to go to –nothing outrageous or dangerous.  If he is shopping , it is in some outdoor market or picturesque shop. He is always using a lot of hand motions to show that  he is buying it for himself to eat now. There is nothing that Rick Steves ever buys that I would want.  He has perfectly behaved children who eat Sacher Tortes in the Bavarian countryside and don’t get hopped up on sugar. Sometimes they stay with a Czech sitter at the hotel while Rick and his wife go to a medical spa in Karlovy Vary. Rick is the everyman of traveling.

So what is his appeal for me? He makes us feel safe and comfortable in a place we have never been.  If Rick has been there or met them, we will be ok.

That is how I ended up having an amazing vacation in Croatia with my kids. I had been trying to go to Croatia for two years.   Both my tour and my cruise had been cancelled. I decided to use the internet for the first time to find a tour guide.  I found Petar Vlasik .  I went to look at his references and there it was –recommended by Rick Steves.  I immediately emailed Petar and he immediately emailed back.    I had a good feeling and ….Rick Steves liked him.  We planned to go to a few places in Croatia  – Dubrovnik, Hvar, Split and Cavtat as well as some side trips. .  Petar was  an amazing  charming, knowledgeable, helpful  cool guy to organize our trip and take us around . The trip was perfect. We have a friend in Croatia.   I highly recommend Petar to all of you when you go to Croatia (and you must). http://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com   Would I have done this without Rick Steves? ( I do now – that is another blog) I like to think I have good intuition but Rick Steves definitely helped.

Which is how I came to watch his shows . We aren’t as different as I would like to think.  I  realized that I love to travel as much as he does. I love meeting the people in new places  as much as he does.  I love the old churches and ruins as much as I love the modern buildings and  contemporary art. I admire him for making a  successful career out of his passion.  I  love his enthusiasm over a tiny hand made flute or an old French cheese.  I feel exactly the same way when I find the perfect bracelet or  walk into an amazing five star hotel.

Fly Safe

JAZ