January 25th, 2021

Tiger: On Crave HBO Sports has released a two episode documentary on Tiger Woods. It is three hours of interviews of people who have known him, like family friends, ex-girlfriends, ex caddie Steve Williams and others. It is informative, from the early days with young 2yo Tiger being showcased on the Michael Douglas Show, with Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart, to him winning three times the US Amateur Championship. From the highs of winning the Tiger-slam in the early 90s (by holding all the major golf championships at the same time – Masters, US Open, British Open and PGA) to the down times of being arrested for DUI in Jupiter FL and the SUV accident in front of his house as his marriage to Elin falls apart. The viewer realizes pretty early on that one of Tiger’s most magnificent gifts was his ability to compartmentalize his life and emotions. His father, Earl, in many ways was like Leopold Mozart, who pushed his young son into greatness, but the son eclipses the father from talent, determination and hard work. Earl had a Messiah-like belief in his son which would have been difficult to live up to as a young man. It was. Still, despite the challenges, this is a remarkable life, and even though he likely won’t overtake Jack Nicklaus with his 19th Major victory (he is currently at 15, with the 2019 Masters remarkably captured) but it in no way diminishes his impact on the game of golf. It is also a cautionary tale of what persona you put before the public which you aim to meet. Time well spent, especially for those who enjoy golf.

I Am Burt: Crave also had the documentary about Burt Reynolds. Burt the Hollywood actor, had led an interesting life. He early on was a football player of note in Florida and went to Florida State. A knee injury in those early 60s was a fatal career diagnosis. He needed to pivot and choose another way to keep himself occupied. He by chance got into drama. He was good and became an extra with bit roles in Hollywood, mostly in TV cowboy series. Much like Clint Eastwood, his career became stalled and he decided to go to Italy to perform in some spaghetti Westerns. Clint’s career took off as a result of his, but Burt didn’t do himself any favours (Navajo Joe). His big break occurred in 1972 with Deliverance. From there a string of successes with The Longest Yard, Smokey & The Bandit, and others. He was noted later in life for a messy financial situation which was a result of him being gullible and generous to a fault it would seem. There never seemed to be a thought toward “another day”. It seems that the attitude was that the money would always be there. If Tiger was a tale of a being careful of a hard-to-emulate squeaky clean image, this is a tale of fame and money being taken for granted. It is interesting to note that Burt was viewed as a bigger star than today’s Brad Pitt or Leo Dicaprio and others. In fact, the stuntman Pitt character in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood was based upon Reynolds, who himself was a stunt man at one time. This is also worth viewing.

Soul: Pixar recently released this animated full-length animated feature on Disney +. Pixar is well known for quality pictures that have a heart, good stories and relatable characters. Known for classics like Finding Nemo, Up, Cars and Toy Story, they more recently have done pictures like Coco. Back in 2015, they released Inside Out that spoke to the inner workings of a teenage girl’s emotions. It was clever and cute. They have followed up with Soul. Focusing on an aspiring jazz pianist who has only secured a job as a part-time teacher in a high school – this young, single black man looks to have his big break. Just as he does, he meets with an accident and his multi-coloured “soul” is on its way to heaven/The Great Beyond. Instead he fights back hard to complete this mission to make his way in music. The film goes more into Inside Out territory as it explores the plains beyond what we perceive. It once again is clever with some colourful imagery. Little pre-souls are meant to gather their personalities and then find a “spark” that allows them to head to Earth and occupy a human. The details aren’t as important that there is a story with a message. I enjoyed this more than I thought that I would. Although not on the level as the classics from Pixar, it is an exploration of a subject matter that is best suited in animation. Wirth checking out for some lighter entertainment. Can’t we all use a little lighter entertainment.

January 11th, 2021

Bridgerton: As period pieces go, this series is a good dramatic undertaking with a very good cast, quality writing and plenty of intrigue and scandal to keep everyone wondering what will happen next. At the very least, they might wonder when the next time they will see the lead black actor (Rege-Jean Page) baring his bottom in another episode. Note, as an aside, the charismatic Page is apparently being considered as a new James Bond candidate. This Netflix series is new and part of the latest releases from Shonda Rhimes, the TV wunder-executive, who seems everything she touches turns to gold. This series set in early 1800s England, begins like Hamilton, with people of many races represented, most notably at first a black Queen. Later in the series it is explained that the current King fell in love with his Queen and that this elevated everyone around her. There are multiple houses at play, in addition to the Bridgerton household, along with the Royal House, and those of other surrounding houses. Think Downton Abbey, along with a healthy dose of Upstairs, Downstairs. Pregnancies, marriages, vying for a Prince or a Duke’s affections are all part of the series. The voiceover done by Julie Andrews, is from a local Social Society newspaper that adds to the intrigue because no one seems to know who the well informed writer seems to be. It keeps one’s attention, and I have quite enjoyed it. More than I expected to be honest. But it has been a fun ride as Season 1 closes out and more seasons are to come it seems. Worth your time to see it.

The History of Swear Words. Nicolas Cage, of all people, is hosting this series of short 6-part comedy vignettes about various swear words and their use, origin and trending status. An initial thought was “how the mighty have fallen” from A-list star to Netflix documentarian. But I digress. From innocuous words like “Damn” and “Dick”, we get to more and more intense words, although starting at the top of the food chain in the series with the F%#& word. This is a comedy with supporting cast like Jim Jeffries (who’s own claim to fame C-word is NOT discussed) Sarah Silverman, Nick Offerman and other various comedians. I think that the commentary from Nikki Glaser, or Zainab Johnson are as funny as any of them. It’s fun. I laughed out loud in a couple of the episodes, mostly because I think I was caught off guard (like the “Dick” episode). The viewer may learn a thing or two, but generally it is meant to be like toilet humour for men (you laugh just because people are using words that not-too-long-ago were considered off limits: see George Carlin and The Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television). For the record, of George’s seven words, only two were discussed in the 6 episodes. I think that they missed out on a couple more colouful than Damn. Just sayin’. But it is also fun escapist time away from the news and Covid. If we needed a good laugh, today is the best time I can think of. This one is also worth your time.

Finally I am reminded back to the review of Queen’s Gambit and today in the local paper, there was an article about my step-father, the Chess Master and former champion in his youth. Chess has once again become more main stream, and this shows him during the same time when the Queen’s Gambit was taking place. For the record, he felt that the series did a very good job of showing chess, with real moves and the feeling of playing competitive chess.

https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/canadian-chess-master-ross-siemms-pleased-with-new-interest-in-the-game

January 4th, 2021

The Midnight Sky: George Clooney has taken on this project recently released by Netflix. He stars in, directs and produces it. He has put together a very good cast with David Oyelowo, Felicity Jones, and others. Sadly the story isn’t that compelling for me. It is a mash up of the Gravity story, adding in a few bits from Interstellar and then an apocalyptic event with some human drama. A younger Clooney character believes that there is a liveable planet out there, in a Carl Sagan way, but proposes it is on a newly found moon near Jupiter. Fast forward a few years (2049) and there has been an Event. George is up near the Arctic Circle. Alone seemingly. Then add in a exploratory spacecraft coming back from Jupiter with a crew reminiscent of The Martian. Things happen in space with the craft much like as in Gravity, and it has much the same look and feel for it. I have to admit that I don’t fully understand what the Earth “event” was, but there is obviously a political undertone to the whole thing. In the end it didn’t really add up to much, and added very little to the movies that have already addressed the theme. I can’t recommend it. It may have given George the excuse and opportunity to grow a Duck Dynasty beard for his home life.

I have watched and re-watched a number of things over the Christmas holidays. I was unable to watch Kate Winslet Ammonite through the TIFF platform since they have security issues with every browser that isn’t Edge. It is frustrating, and rather than refunding me, they just talked to me slower in the hopes that I was the problem. I am not. It remains on the list of films to be seen.

I also re-watched The Big Short which remains interesting on the perils of Wall Street, self-regulation and those in power making money with complete disregard to the general public. Scarily there was never anyone sent to jail of note for the fraud and corruption perpetrated on the public. Because of this, there is every likelihood that it could be repeated. One doesn’t need to look much further than the current stock market (DOW over 30,000) to wonder how those lofty heights are supported during a pandemic. Other interesting documentaries include The Great Hack and The Social Dilemma which focus on the fact that if you aren’t paying for a product or service, that you ARE the product or service as with Facebook and other social media platforms. The point in both is how AI and tracking of your every movement in your online existence means that you are sent targeted ads to keep you engaged. These targeted ads, as well as news, shapes your thinking and attitudes, which led to results in elections around the globe, including the US 2016 Presidential election and Brexit. More to the point, it suggests that it isn’t even all people on the web, but rather those who are viewed as changeable. They are called Persuadable. I did review it on October 26, 2020, but it was a good thing to refresh. I also re-watched Coco from Pixar the other night and it was a story very well done. Good music, a well told story and a really good story with family and meeting idols.