Thursday, April 16, 2020

'Dalai Lama' doc shows different side now; 'Nemesis' short impresses

World-class physicist Steven Chu chats with the Dalai Lama.
Richard Gere, Barbra Streisand, Harrison Ford, Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie and England's Prince Charles are all numbered among the closest celebrity pals of one Tenzin Gyatso. Maybe thankfully, though, none of them can be found mingling with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in an occasionally enlightening documentary, "The Dalai Lama -- Scientist."

Instead, the film features a parade of absorbing experts in fields running the gamut from cosmology to psychology and an assortment of disciplines in between. Most take part in a series of dialogues with the likable Holy Man, who opens the proceedings with a smile and a brief, self-effacing notion: "Since my childhood," he says, "I loved technology. I'm really (a) very, very lazy student. I always prefer (to) play."

No longer it seems. For decades, Dahli Lama XIV has been hosting guests at his compound in India, where talk is heavy and maybe a bit too deep at times. (At least it is for this former chemistry major. Of course, that became a brief venture for me, anyway, after required study for a freshman final exam too readily gave way to an opening night viewing of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." Ha!)

Certainly, the Lama's doc has no such levity in it. However, more curious -- and focused -- types in the crowd might discover moments of insight and, perhaps, even unexpected wonder in observing discussions about The Big Bang Theory (no, not that TV show!), now timely mention on how meditation might connect positively with influenza inoculations, and various other matters of intellect.

Not so surprisingly, the good man in the title easily finds that his own Buddhist philosophies generally go hand in hand with the western sciences offered up by the genuine authorities surrounding him. The Dalai Lama seems as comfortable among them as he regularly demonstrates in the aforementioned world of celebrity. And, all the while, his humanity also keeps shining along with the wisdom shared in this often instructional piece from activist filmmaker Dawn Gifford Engle.

Not rated (with little, if anything to offend); 1:34; $ $ $ out of $5

("The Dalai Lama -- Scientist," which had been scheduled for a limited May theatrical release, has been featured at numerous film festivals, including venues in Venice and London. It is currently streaming on Kanopy, Google Play, and Vimeo.) 

Also showing now on Vimeo is "Nemesis." It's a thriller with some bite from writer and director Tim Earnheart, a design whiz who obviously knows how to make an audience pay attention.

The requisite intro advances frigid dinner conversation between two start-up business partners, and at least one (Joy Park) feels betrayed by her suddenly more wealthy friend (Esha More).

When they eventually conclude with small talk, the latter gets curious about an elite "club" that's likely to whet the appetites of viewers as much as it already has made such an ambitious young lady so eager to join.

The rest becomes some smashing short-film history and a game that might stir cinematic images of Texas chainsaws, terminators, and perhaps even forbidden planets to dance through more than a few heads.

Not rated (but probably a hard "R" if so); 17 minutes; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

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