by Alan Yudman

Last week I mildly complained about the formulaic nature of episodes 2, 3 and 4 of STAR TREK: PICARD. Well, the whingeing is over. STARDUST CITY RAG broke the mold in several ways.

There was a brief flashback to give us a little of Seven of Nine’s recent backstory. It involves Icheb from STAR TREK: VOYAGER and a group of, I suppose you could call them pirates led by a woman named Bjayzl. They find released Borg and harvest their technology. Similar to what the Romulans are doing on the Artifact, but much more cruelly. And we don’t see any sign of Soji, Narek and Narek’s menacing sister. Those are all pluses until they move that story forward in a more dramatic fashion.

I enjoyed this episode and then had a slightly disturbing thought. Did I like it because there is less Picard in PICARD? The story lines focus on Seven, Raffi, Agnes and Maddox. Picard seems to be there just to keep the larger mission in our minds. But Jean-Luc is largely a supporting player in this episode. Did that make it better? Maybe. I was so excited to see Patrick Stewart live in this role again. I tried to temper expectations knowing that an actor nearly 80-years-old could not do the same things he did on THE NEXT GENERATION. But the expectations were sneaking in the more I watched. Now I am approaching disappointment that the creators have dialed back his Picard-ness to a level that he seems almost like a doddering old man.

Everyone is on this mission for their own reasons and we are discovering more and more about those reasons. Raffi it seems has a grandson. Agnes and Maddox were more than work colleagues. Seven is out to avenge Icheb. Those are all interesting stories that play out in interesting ways. But they don’t involve Picard (other than doing a hilarious French accent to pass himself off as some kind of smuggler.. wait… he’s French.. shouldn’t his French accent be better?).

I’m still all-in. But I am waiting for a really good episode that makes me care more about Picard as much as I’ve begun to care about the other characters.



by Alan Yudman

In the 1960’s the FBI engaged in a domestic counterintelligence program called COINTELPRO. The idea was to discredit American political organizations J. Edgar Hoover believed were dangerous to the country. Most were minorities like the Black Panthers and Martin Luther King, Jr. or the Communist Party or ant-Vietnam protesters.

Actress Jean Seberg became a target and eventually a victim of a campaign of gossip and lies because of her connections to the Black Panthers… a campaign that eventually led to her apparent suicide. Her journey from activism to madness is the story behind the movie SEBERG.

Seberg was a star of the French New Wave beginning with Jean-Luc Goddard’s BREATHLESS. She went on to star in movies like SAINT JOAN, PAINT YOUR WAGON and AIRPORT. But amid her success she began donating money to the Panthers and to a community organization headed by activist Hakim Jamal.

The movie picks up with Seberg (Kristen Stewart) returning to Hollywood to audition for PAINT YOUR WAGON. On the plane she meets Jamal who is escorting Betty Shabazz back to the United States. On the tarmac at LAX she is photographed next to Jamal giving the Black Power salute. A photo that would change her life.

It put her in the FBI’s crosshairs, a place from which she would never really escape. At the start we see her as a caring if somewhat naïve celebrity who is hell bent on challenging authority and helping those she perceives are targeted by the U.S. Government. The FBI begins a campaign of surveillance and eventually counterintelligence that sends her spiraling into paranoia, depression and madness. Seberg has an affair with Jamal, a fact the FBI spreads to the gossip columnists. The whole mess is supervised by an agent named Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell). At the beginning he believes in the cause but has a crisis of conscience as he realizes the dark depths of the FBI’S program.

Stewart is a fine actress, but she frequently comes across as cold and distant. That makes Seberg’s descent into madness feel performative rather than truly emotional. Vince Vaughn plays a true asshole of an FBI agent. He concocts lies about Seberg that are leaked to reporters. There is one scene at a dinner party where he is angry and abusive to his family. I’m not sure why we needed to see that. It was already clear he was a jerk. Other than Seberg, no character has any depth. They are merely archetypes of an activist, a racist FBI agent, an emotionally closed off French husband. No one has earned any of their emotions.

Anthony Mackie and Zazie Beets as Hakim and Dorothy Jamal are the only two who seem to do more with their characters than what is written on the page by screenwriters Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse. Benedict Andrews direction is fine, but everything in the movie just lies there.

The only thing the movie successfully portrays is the evil of the FBI’s COINTELPRO (read more about it here). That’s the sum total of its emotional depth, which is kind of sad considering the true tragic story of SEBERG.


star trek picard

by Alan Yudman


I am enjoying the show and cannot wait for the notification that the new episode is available to watch. But some of the story telling devices are getting a bit tired.

Starting every episode with a “14 years ago” flashback that ends with the synth attack on Mars feels like someone plugging elements into an outline rather than natural storytelling. Like the producers have a formula and every script must fit it. This week’s plug and play scenario finds Picard on the planet Vashti where Romulan refugees have settled. All is well as he visits the Warrior Nuns and the young boy they are caring for when all of sudden he hears about the Mars attack and leaves… never to return for 14 years.

Checking in every week at the Borg cube is relatively pointless unless something actually happens. It is a slow drip as Narek slowly, excruciatingly slowly, blows apart the history she believes she knows. Narek’s sister shows up to be all menacing and alluring but adds nothing to what we already know. She is pressuring him for results. He is steadfast in his belief his is the right tack to take. She wants to make sure he hasn’t lost his focus so she chokes him until he calls Soji “the Destroyer”. Ok, we get it. Please, can we have a new character beat for Narissa? Please?

Despite that, there is a lot of good stuff in this episode. The banter on the ship between Rios and Jurati about the boredom of space travel is clever. The introduction of Elnor as a sort of Romulan Ninja was a great addition to our ragtag bunch. The hint that this may all be a futile quest gives it a La Manchian air that is interesting. And the dogfight between the Romulan Bird of Prey (yes, it’s not just a Klingon thing) and Rios’s ship was very cool… especially when a Ranger comes to the rescue and we get a classic re-introduction to Seven of Nine.

I want to see more of the Picard we see in this episode. He is daring and competent. He doesn’t seem as enfeebled as he sometimes feels. The ABSOLUTE CANDOR in the title is a reference to how the Warrior Nuns live their lives. I will try to live up to their example in my reviews (without the messy beheadings).


by Alan Yudman

It’s recap time and like the audience demanded at the end of the show, I, like PARASITE, will not be played off or have the lights turned out on me!

There wasn’t much in the way of surprises, except for the domination of PARASITE in the major categories and Eminem performing “Lose Yourself” to a raucous welcome.

I’ll leave the critique of the show to others. But a couple of observations before the recap. Rene Zellwegger’s speech was a rambling, off the rails mess. That’s where you bring in the music. And Joaquin Phoenix should have lead with a quote from his brother River’s lyrics.

Strap in… here we go.


Choice: Joaquin Phoenix √

Prediction: Same

Every time I think about JOKER I like it less. But without Phoenix it would have been truly unwatchable. The most predictable win except for….


Choice: Saorise Ronan

Prediction: Rene Zellwegger

Zellwegger’s streak continued, but you’d think she would have had the acceptance speech thing down by now.

At some point Saorise Ronan will win an Oscar. She’s young and marvelously talented.


Choice: Joe Pesci

Prediction: Brad Pitt

Yeah, Pitt deserved it. Tough category.


Choice: Laura Dern

Prediction: Laura Dern

Yeah, yeah.. Jennifer Lopez was done wrong by not being nominated at all. But Dern gave 2 standout performances in LITTLE WOMEN and MARRIAGE STORY. She should win for both.


Choice: Thomas Newman

Prediction: Hildur Guðnadóttir

Guðnadóttir deserved this. I’d forgotten she also scored the best TV show of 2019… HBO’s CHERNOBYL




I was happy/shocked. I figured old Hollywood would tip its cap to Tarantino. But they gave the Oscar to the screenplay that deserved it. The first domino in the domination of PARASITE.



Prediction: LITTLE WOMEN

I read the comments of an anonymous voter in the Hollywood Reporter before the ceremony who said he couldn’t keep track of the jumps back and forth in time. Ridiculous. Absurd. I still believe LITTLE WOMEN should have won. But, I can’t dismiss the selection of JOJO RABBIT. This would have been the biggest surprise if not for PARASITE.



Prediction: 1917

Maybe the guild awards are no longer an accurate predictor of Oscar success. The Directors and Producers gave their awards to 1917. The Academy decided Bong Joon Ho’s genre breaking film was more deserving. Who am I to argue?


Choice: 1917

Prediction: 1917

Roger Deakins is a god. His god-hood continues unchallenged.



Prediction: 1917

I actually threw my hands up in the air and screamed “YES!”, then did a fist pump. I was more excited than Bong. Nah, probably not. The choice of this remarkable movie does not forgive last year’s choice of GREEN BOOK, but I’m on the road to forgiveness.

Maybe the changes the Academy has made over the past few years are finally bearing fruit. A Korean film with subtitles won the big awards, the first non-English language film ever to win Best Picture. Next challenge is recognizing the acting categories need to be less white. Progress can be slow and I’m willing to wait and see.


by Alan Yudman

Slow. Very slow. Like impulse versus warp power. So far STAR TREK: PICARD should be renamed STAR TREK: EXPOSITION. Three episodes in and we are still unfolding the back story. Please, let there be some action soon. I have hope that things will move quicker now that our group of renegades have left earth.

Here Picard finds the ship he will use to hunt down Dahj’s sister and Bruce Maddox. We also discover more about that sister’s work on The Artifact. Apparently the whole operation is being run by Hugh, the former Borg from THE NEXT GENERATION. Picard’s history with Raffi is also peeled back a bit. They worked on the mission to save Romulan refugees, but she is abandoned by Picard when he leaves Starfleet. She is a very imperfect character with anger and addiction issues. But she has the curiosity of most good Starfleet officers. She also hooks Picard up with Chris Rios, the pilot whose ship they will board for their hunt. He is apparently another former Starfleet officer who has a fractured history with the organization. That seems to be a theme that is developing. In other Star Trek franchises the goodness and general morality of Starfleet and the Federation is almost beyond doubt. But here some grey areas are introduced that makes Starfleet feel more like it is part of a real world, not some bizarre utopia. The action ramps up a bit too. Picard is getting too close to truth for Starfleet Intelligence and a Romulan kill squad shows up at his Chateau. Picard and his two Romulan caretakers fight them off and Jean-Luc is off on his search for answers.

The idea of repairing past wrongs really develops in this episode and as suggested in the title, the end of all that Picard, Raffi, Rios and Dr. Jurati believed in or worked toward is really the beginning of their new mission to find answers that Starfleet and The Federation don’t seem want answered. It’s still not entirely clear how The Artifact and the Romulan exploitation of the Borg plays into the larger mission. But it is sketching out some interesting ideas, but here’s hoping it gets there sooner rather than later.


star trek picard

by Alan Yudman

The second episode of STAR TREK: PICARD titled MAPS AND LEGENDS continues Jean-Luc Picard’s struggle with his fractured legacy. Can he live up to it or repair it? That remains to be seen but it isn’t going to be easy.

Now the Maps referred to are more metaphor than real. Picard’s path to finding Dahj’s sister Soji is being laid out. In a remarkably revealing scene, his request for a ship to go find Bruce Maddox is turned down by Starfleet Command. He isn’t just turned down though he is humiliated by an Admiral who calls his request “fucking hubris”. That forces Picard to take another route on his journey. Picard is also dealing with his legend. The Admiral gets into a debate about the reasons behind his divorce from Starfleet. Picard has always believed in being the ultimate human, helping anyone in trouble. But the Admiral reveals a shocking truth, Starfleet is omnipotent. It gets to decide who lives and dies. It is a shocking revelation from a society believed to be a moral guidepost. You can see how it rattles Picard as it goes against his own principles.

The other legends dealt with are those of the Romulans. Their history as operators and schemers is revealed in new disturbing ways. The Tal Shiar seems resurrected. They have agents operating on earth and within Starfleet. But we also learn about an ancient Romulan agency called the Zhat Vash… described as the keeper of secrets only the dead can truly keep. One of those is the Romulan distrust and outright hatred of synthetic life forms. Now their beliefs begin to align with those of Starfleet since the destruction of Mars. Starfleet intelligence seems to be working with Romulans to find Soji. The legend of this secret agency seems real.

The shocking reveal at the end of REMEMBERANCE is explained. The Borg cube we see is really something run by the Romulans called The Artifact. They are exploiting it by mining its technology for profit (where are the Ferengi?). We also learn more about Soji, her work. She helps remove Borg technology from drones who are being “unassimilated”. We get more hints about her humanity and her knowledge as she seems sympathetic to one drone who she speaks to in his native language.

Picard’s map to finding Soji requires him to get in touch with a former Starfleet officer Rafi Musiker who seems none too happy to see the Admiral. That’s where this episode ends.

The knowledge of Star Trek history is satisfying. Picard’s diagnosis of Irumodic Syndrome from “ALL GOOD THINGS” is brought up. He had received a physical by his former doctor on the Stargazer in order to be cleared for space travel. It seems the disease is progressing, and the prognosis is dire. But Picard would rather die among the stars than withering like a vine at his vineyard. We also get a glimpse of the destruction of Mars and how very Data-looking synths made it happen.

STAR TREK: PICARD continues to be a satisfying watch, even when it is just setting up the plot for future episodes. It deals with life, death and finding your true place in the galaxy.