Monday, November 09, 2020

locking down with sherlock

We are now in week two of the governor-ordered Jalisco lockdown.

"Lockdown" is a bit too dramatic of a term. Of course, hyperbolic social intercourse has become the coin of the conversation realm these days. So, "lockdown" it is.

I promised to keep you updated on how people are complying with an order that had all the complexity of the Babylonian Talmud (partial shutdown). But, being the lawyer I am, I realized the question I posed is not the correct one. We should not be concerned with whether people are complying with each detail of the restrictions on our activities, but whether the purposes of the order are being met.

For all of its hokey-pokey details of when people can go to the tienda de abarrotes and when they cannot, the governor's stated purpose for the rules was to minimize our contact with one another while simultaneously recognizing that people have economic lives as well as health lives. In that sense, the order appears to be working. At least, on its face.

I feel sorry for all political leaders who are faced with this virus. Even though scientists know very little about this particular virus, they do know a lot about coronaviruses in general. The first thing they know is that it is transmitted from person to person by close contact -- primarily in the air. 

The obvious solution would be to imprison everyone in the world in their homes for a month or so to let the virus run its course. No deliveries to homes. No visitations. But, even that would not work because there would need to be armed forces ensuring the recalcitrant did not sally forth as Typhoid Marys. The armed forces would simply be a breeding ground for the virus.

The other extreme is to simply ignore the virus while we all go merrily through our days letting the virus work its way through the population creating herd immunity -- and vales of tears for the fallen.

So, we end up with the hodgepodge Jalisco order that mirrors, to a great extent, what is being imposed in Europe as its infections and deaths increase. It is easy to mock the order, and a lot of us have, especially those who are caught up in the Mexican political drama that now colors every move here.

But the bottom line is that activities have been noticeably reduced during the shutdown. Most restaurants were operating as ordered, with a heavy emphasis on take out. Stores generally closed during the proscribed hours. And the beaches, which are usually busy on a normal November weekend, are lightly attended.

What no one knows, and no one will know, is the extent to which the two-week restriction will affect the infection rate. After all, that was the ultimate goal -- to reduce the increase in infections. Without a rigorous testing regime (and that is not going to happen), we will never know if this restriction of liberty paid a dividend or it was simply a bad investment.

I have been spending my time at home with a few sorties to Hawaii for groceries. There is plenty to amuse me here with reading and writing topping the list.

And there are movies. In the last two days, I have used both my Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts to watch two movies that coincidentally involved Sherlock Holmes -- one of my favorite characters from English literature. Both had something of interest, but I could not recommend either one unless you had absolutely nothing to do in the middle of the Kalahari.

Let's tackle the oldest one first -- Mr. Holmes on Amazon Prime. Ian McKellen plays a retired 93-year old Holmes in post-World War Two Sussex. He is trying to write an account of his last case, but his memory is steadily disappearing. His housekeeper's young son, Roger, is the foil that helps him find snippets of the past. In turn, Roger finds a father figure to Roger; his father died in the war.

There are at least five story arcs that are cleverly interwoven into the film -- all of them designed to challenge Holmes's reliance on logic (the character aspect I most admire about him) in favor of the far less-rigorous pursuit of human relations.

It is not a Baker Street escapade, though the screenwriter allows himself the interesting conceit that most of the Sherlock tales written by Dr. Watson were a smoke screen to protect their privacy. It is almost like the alternative timeline device so beloved of Star Trek. The screenwriter is then free to plunder the Holmes canon.

Even with all of those plot devices, new insights into the Sherlock mysteries, and outstanding acting in what turns out to be an ensemble cast, when the whole thing is put together, it is not as good as its parts.

The story arcs come together in what sounds like a Holmes mystery, but they are not very satisfactory. In fact, the resolutions are almost perfunctory. It almost feels as if the producers ran out of funds to properly conclude what they had wrought.

But it is a better piece than Enola Holmes, a Netflix film about the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes who sets forth to find her home-leaving mother. Apparently, it is based on a series of books, The Enola Holmes Mysteries, juvenile books that have missed my attention.

The good stuff first. Like all films of this genre, it is a good adventure -- all Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.

Enola was raised rather unconventionally by her mother, who taught her fencing, chess, jujitsu, and home-schooled her by requiring her to read every book in the Holmes library. Oh, yes, she is every bit as intelligent as her two much-older brothers.

She has developed a knack for codes from the games her mother taught her. When Mom scampers off on Enola's sixteenth birthday, she leaves behind a trail of clues that feels like something out of an elementary video game.

So, Enola is off to London to find Mum -- with brother Sherlock always nearby to offer suggestions. Pretty normal stuff.

But the movie strives to be more. It wants to be a Message movie. Feminism. Gender roles. Political oppression. Voting rights for the common man (and woman, eventually).

The juvenile novel foundation is not sufficient to withstand the weight of every social wrong since Neanderthals were shown the cave door by racist homo sapiens. As a result, the plot totters along as Enola uses her one-trick pony talent of decoding messages to usher us through a world that looks less Dickens than something that would appear in a debutante's diary.

None of that offended. It just disappointed. If you want to take on Big Issues, do not pretend they can be resolved by simply disguising yourself as a boy -- over and over again. And then de-coding a message the audience had already figured out a half-hour earlier. 

Oddly, the thing that annoyed me most was the sloppiness of the script. On the train to London, Enola encounters a damsel in distress that she must save. Well, she saves a young man who looks as if he was auditioning for the part of Lord Alfred Douglas. And, in fact, he claimed to be a lord -- "the Viscount Tewkesbury, Marquess of Basilwether."

Knowing this was a Holmes mystery, I immediately knew the boy was a fraud and would soon be found out. His story was that his father had recently died and he had just inherited the Marquess title.

But that was the problem. Even though Viscount Tewkesbury may have been his courtesy title during his father's lifetime, upon Dad's untimely demise, the boy became a marquess -- a title that outranks viscount. Stated properly, his title would be Marquess of Basilwether, Viscount Tewkesbury, or just drop the viscount all together.

It was such an obvious clue that when the story progressed and it became evident the boy was a marquess, I could not get it out of my head. Was it just a badly-researched mistake? Or did the screenwriter fail to include something in the novel? Or, worse, did the screenwriter think so little of his audience that he thought no one would notice?

Whatever it was, it was sloppy. And that sums up my thoughts about the movie. It is a good adventure romp where Nancy Drew becomes one of the Hardy Boys. And that is a lot of fun.

But the Message part of the movie is mutton dressed as lamb -- where social complexity is reduced to a set of cartoonish platitudes. 

After watching both movies, I am anxious to return to life outside my house.


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