January 27th, 2020

This week was a mixed bag of viewing, partially because I had access to some shows on Prime Video.   Principally on a flight to and from Vancouver I was able to watch Fleabag to begin with.  This recently awarded Best Series and Actress from Golden Globes and SAG Awards was available and I decided to catch it with enthusiasm.   It was worth it.   This show is the brainchild of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and she has an excellent cast, including last year’s Best Actress in Olivia Colman (currently playing the Queen, in The Crown).  It is a simple premise of the life of the female lead, who talks to the camera as asides, much like Ferris Bueller, and then she interacts with the characters and situations around her.   She and her sister are left behind when their mother has passed away from breast cancer.   Dad wasn’t close with the girls but manages to bounce back quickly romantically with the girls’ Godmother (played by Colman).   It is the story of their lives, and careers and loves.  There are flashbacks as you piece together what is happening in their lives.   It is layered and unfolds over time slowly.   Season 2 picks up with the impending wedding of the father, and introducing a couple new characters, notably the priest, played by Andrew Scott, who also played baddie Professor Moriarity with relish.  Having finished the series I found that the last two episodes really brought it all together.  This isn’t just a comedy and I will leave it at that.  There are more complications, and fully written characters around the lead who add greatly to the story.   I like the way it gets tied together.   According to Waller-Bridge this is the end.   There is no Season 3.   Although this clip suggests she “may re-visit” herself when “she is 50”.    So those who care to watch will have plenty of time to catch up since she is 35yo!   Enjoy what she has put together.

I decided to watch Tolkien on Crave as well.  It is pronounced Toll-Keen which corrected me after years.  This is the story of the writer’s early life, and then as he grows up through college.   It speaks to his books of course as his life unfolds and those he is most well known for being The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series.  I was more impressed by this than I was expecting to be honest.   I had heard modest reviews, but perhaps I was in the mood for it.  He came upon his primary relationship with the woman who would become his wife, early on, and he was forbidden by his guardian and priest to see her until he was 21yo.   The resolution of that, and her impact upon him cannot be understated, despite that she was of a different religion.   He also relied heavily on his friends which eventually they became a band of brothers really.   They met and talked and explored different ideas, in a way that just isn’t done anymore.   There are elements of Harry Potter and common rooms within a dorm, where people would gather and discuss.   This interaction has mostly gone away, and we as people have become more solitary.  Technology in this case, isn’t for the better.   These young men greatly impacted the young Tolkien and shaped who he would become.   I won’t reveal more but in many ways we all know how this ends.    He ends up writing one of the defining and definitive works of fantasy which has impacted countless others.   He created a world with new languages.  He created new classes of beings like Orcs, Elves, Ents and others.   He died in 1973 at the age of 81.   Edith his wife pre-deceased him in 1971 at the age of 82.   On her tombstone he had an Elvish characters name inscribed on it.   I will caution that this film can be slow, but I didn’t mind the pacing.  Others might.

Finally I started watching The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, with Rachel Brosnahan which won the SAG Award again this year, but has previously won Golden Globes and countless other awards.   Brosnahan was in House of Cards.  She played the woman that creepy Doug was obsessed about.  She is excellent in this role as a 1960s era Jewish housewife in New York City from a well-to-do family that breaks new ground by taking on the role as a stand up comedian.   In some ways this borrows off the themes from Mad Men where the men were the providers and women were the stay-at-home meek types.  The woman’s value was in how she supported her husband.   Times were changing.   Early on, she meets up with the legendary Lenny Bruce who broke new ground with his stand up comedy.   I like the writing.   I am less than enthused about the family interactions between husband and wife.    It seems very stereotyped, but maybe that we really the times.   I am not old enough to confirm or deny this.  I found the one court sequence interesting.   How times have changed when you look back on it 50 years ago.  So early days in this for me, and the fact that Brosnahan removes her top in the first episode didn’t hurt either.   Hey, guys can be guys after all.   I will stick with it for a while longer and hope that we see her progression into this profession.   Maybe she is more like a Joan Rivers.   But again, I am not sure.

January 20th, 2020

On the plane I was able to catch a couple of movies that I have been meaning to see.   First was Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.  The Golden Globes were kind to this very long film which is set in the late 60s in Hollywood.   I note that younger viewers who know little to nothing of this time won’t necessarily get the full impact of it.   I will leave that statement without further elaboration since much of it hinges on the ultimate resolution.  For me, knowing this history then there was a bit of an “a-ha” moment as some things came together.
I think the love being shown to Brad Pitt as Supporting Actor is justified.  His was an interesting role as stunt double for an aging DiCaprio western character, who seemed to share a number of qualities with real Clint Eastwood.   The three hour length could have easily have been trimmed.  For example, the extended sequence with Pitt interacting with Bruce Dern was longer than needed.   I found the sequence with Bruce Lee was entertaining just as someone getting their comeuppance but if he wasn’t that way, then it was offensive.  Do I really think that Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate reflected the reality of her?  I don’t know. The interaction of her at the movie theatre watching her own film was interesting but not all that informative.   The scenes that showed the actual Tate in the movie was the interesting part since I don’t think I remember ever seeing her act.  In the end, was this the best picture of the year?  I don’t think so.   As in almost any Tarantino film there is a violent component which some viewers may find just too much.   Is it necessary?   Likely not.   But there are times when it is imminently satisfying.   For me this could easily be a two hour film without taking much away.   It is worth seeing and Pitt does some really good work.

I also saw Rocketman, the Elton John biopic which seeing the success of Queen’s  Bohemian Rhapsody added to the music noise.  Musicians who no longer make the money from albums, and aren’t touring can look to seek their stories to be made into movies.   Queen has made a fortune.   This movie differentiates itself from Queen by being more of a musical.   Sadly for me the original songs are modified and changed and sung by the actors (and not Elton John).  Iconic songs for me like Border Song lack in quality and energy.  Others too like Tiny Dancer, and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting among others just don’t work.  I also don’t have a lot of sympathy for Reggie/Elton.  Poor, multi-talented, rich, hoarder who doesn’t have a lot of love from his family.   Boo hoo.   I like to see the creative process and also think his gift for visualizing music to lyrics is fascinating.   He is an accomplished talent.   While professing profusely that he has never had an argument with Bernie Taupin, I think we saw a couple of arguments in the film, like when Bernie decided to move back to the UK.   How Bernie didn’t hear any music as he wrote his lyrics is interesting too.   I was also surprised to see how Elton was played by his manager (Robb Stark).  He may have signed a contract but I have to imagine that there is an exit clause which allows him to end it.   If there isn’t, then he isn’t as smart as you might think.   This movie is infinitely better with Elton’s voice doing the singing.   I am glad that I followed through on the promise to myself not to pay for this movie.   So Elton gets my money for his songs and (mostly) Bernie’s lyrics but not for a movie.   Jamie Bell plays Taupin.   I like him better as Billy Elliot.  The Elton marriage to a women was kind of glossed over, but not ignored.

January 13th, 2020

At the theatre I went out with my youngest son to go check out 1917.  Newly minted with a Golden Globe for Best Picture and also Best Director for Sam Mendes.   I have been meaning to see this since checking out the trailers.   I have a fascination for war pictures, especially when they are done well.   The buzz on this one was that it was all done, seemingly, in “one shot”; no breaks, one continuous shot from beginning to end as the characters go on their journey.  The set up is a simple one and is explained in the trailer with Colin Firth as a General ordering two young men to travel from where they currently are to another Division of British soldiers who are heading into a trap from the Germans where they will be wiped out (1600 men, including the one messenger’s older brother).   They must deliver a direct order from the General to cease the attack.  Off they go.

The scenes of the trenches are very effective and how tight the quarters really were.  Our two young soldiers decide to get started straight away.   They journey takes place as you see the ugliness of this war.  Bodies of men and horses, just left out in fields and shelled ponds.   It’s a good thing that there isn’t smell-o-vision.    As they move from place to place different scenarios present themselves and they run into various other people.   I won’t get into the details, since it generally is effectively done.   I feel as though the continuous shot gimmick is exactly that, and the story could be told as effectively with set scenes and traditional cuts and editing.   So rather than take the camera over the shoulder of one character to show the face of another while he speaks, you can just cut from one camera to another.   At the same time, scenes where the characters are walking through ponds, water and mud pits are effective and you wonder where the camera man was to get it.  There are stars in this film, and I won’t name them here (I have to admit to expecting to see Matt Damon along the way – you’ll know why when you see it).   In the end, both youngest son and I really enjoyed this.  There was plenty of suspense.  There were a few surprises and we enjoyed the journey.  I felt as though you got a real sense of the war and how it would have been to be on the front lines.  War is hell.  This one in particular was hell, and the conditions that the average soldier had to live in were deplorable.  They were all so young, as they all have been with young men set to do the deeds of older politicians and generals.   Was this the Best Picture of 2019?   Roger Ebert site didn’t think so, as they gave it just 2 1/2 Stars – the same number of stars that Cats got!!   I don’t think that 2019 was all that strong a year, and I don’t think we will look back upon it and think about all the gems that were released.   In that background, this was one of the better ones.

January 6th, 2020 Happy New Year

Happy New Year as we enter not only a new year, but also a new decade.  Time flies!  I think back on the decade that was, but also on the decade ahead where (should I still be around) I would finish in my sixties!  Holy crap!  That just doesn’t sound right!

The Golden Globe awards are tonight (I am writing this on sunday) and it should be an interesting awards show.   Usually the fashion is much more interesting than the awards themselves!

On Netflix, four time Golden Globe nominated The Two Popes was on my list.  It is nominated for Best Picture (Drama), as well as Best Actor for the excellent Jonathan Pryce, and Best Supporting Actor for Anthony Hopkins.   I can safely say that I learned more about the current Pope (Pope Francis) than I have ever learned about any Pope ever.  I was pleased to know it.   The movie focuses on the time after the death of the beloved Pope John Paul II.   The church has been feeling much pressure, for scandals like the priests sexually assaulting the altar boys and attendance is falling dramatically.   More and more people see the church as out of touch.   In electing a new Pope, the choice for the Catholic Church was to select German, conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict).  He was seen as a unifying vote, but there are grumblings amongst the other Priests.   Among them from Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina.  The Argentinian wishes to resign, but the Pope wouldn’t engage in a letter exchange and it forces the two to meet face to face.   What transpires is an exchange of differing philosophies on the overall direction of the church.   There are discussions about “changing” versus “compromising”.   Pope Benedict says he disagrees with virtually every attitude that the Cardinal has.   The Cardinal has a colourful past which comes to light as the two men get to know each other better, and have a growing respect for one another.   There was some humour, as it isn’t all heavy discussion.   I am glad that I watched this.  Pryce in particular was excellent, even though I am not sure that he actually speaks all the Spanish in the film.   I learned something, I was entertained, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the sets and in particular the Sistine Chapel.  Having been there, I enjoyed seeing it and remembering just how blue the room is (more than I had expected).   This movie is worth your time,

I went to the theatre on Janaury 1 to see Little Women, principally from the positive reviews and the presence of Sairose Ronan and also Timothee Chalamet, two of the most in-demand and dynamic actors working these days.   I like them both.   Greta Gerwig, who previously directed Lady Bird with Ronan, directs the classic American family tale from the 1800s.   This movie has been done before and notably in 1994 with Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder and Christian Bale.   For an actor, it is a young persons role mostly and young female talent will seek it out.  Ronan received a Golden Globe for her take on Jo.   Jo is the writer in the family, and this becomes a movie about the creation of the book that becomes this movie.   The challenge for young women of the age was to find their path when their choices were so limited.   Usually it was find a young man of means and status, and then provide heirs for the family.   Florence Pugh, who plays Amy (with a Marcia Brady like complex held by Jan Brady) takes a different turn from Midsommar earlier in the year.   She is also very good.   The weak link in the cast for me is Laura Dern as the Mom.  She isn’t very believable, and I think others in the role would be better.   Dern is 52yo.  Maybe a Jennifer Connelly, Naomi Watts or a Cate Blanchett would have been better.  Emma Watson isn’t the same caliber actress as Ronan and Pugh.   But besides that, this isn’t a movie you need to see on the big screen.   But it was still enjoyable.   Not much happens and reflects life on a farm in New England.   Louisa May Alcott who wrote the story, is encouraged to change the ending for the book to make it more romantic.   In real life she never married.  Beyond this book, she wrote two sequels that were not as well known.   Alcott is similar to Emily Bronte, also in the 1800s,  in looking for a direction in her life.   She found her voice given that 150 years later they are still making movies about her story.

Adding some Golden Globes musings from last night’s proceedings (in no particular order):

  • As talented as he might be, Jacquin Phoenix is a weird dude, and I wouldn’t want to share in whatever vegan meal that he is enjoying
  • Renee Zellwegger, see above, is about as weird as Jacquin, but has a face that still looks like a puzzle with a couple pieces put in wrong.   How does SHE win for a movie no one has seen?
  • Salma Hayek
  • Why all this love for Quentin Tarantino and his movie, while The Irishman and Martin Scorsese left out in the cold?   Shut out?
  • Was Brad Pitt really the best supporting actor?  Against The Irishman P-actors (Pacino and Pesci)?
  • How does Olivia Colman best Jodie Comer?
  • Tom Hanks acceptance speech for the Cecil B deMille award was touching and honest and everything you would expect from this actor.   Tearing up as you look upon your family sitting before you is a tremendous sign of character.
  • 1917 winning Best Picture, I can roll with that, even though most people haven’t seen it yet, including me.  Add Best Director too.  Okay.
  • Salma Hayek (you can’t say the name just once, you just can’t)
  • I need to watch Fleabag.
  • I don’t need to watch Ramy.
  • How does Jared Harris lose to Russell Crowe?
  • Ricky Gervais is profane and deserves to have his mouth washed out with soap, but he pulls no punches and doesn’t care about who he offends (especially calling out the politically inclined winners)
  • Kate McKinnon on introducing Ellen DeGeneres for the Carol Burnett Award, first rate speech.  Fist pump for that.   Heartfelt and genuine.
  • How is Jennifer Aniston nominated for anything?  I think she is there so they have a camera on her as she gazes at Brad Pitt when he wins.