May 2nd, 2022

The Book of Boba Fett: I finally finished watching this series with the hopes that it would be getting better. From the first episode where we see the resurrection from the dead for the lead character, Boba Fett it was straining the levels of possibility. Boba Fett really was a minor character in the original Star Wars world and he died in one of the silliest ways, his engine packed being knocked by Han Salo (who can’t see well) and he jets off the side of Jabba’s Sail Barge and drops into the sarlacc pit. Weak. But we see how, incredibly, he emerges from this unpleasant death and is saved by the tuskan raiders. By the final couple episodes, this series, or ahem “book” converges with the Mandalorian to have he reintroduced. The Mandalorian announces that he needs to go somewhere and he jets off to another planet to track down Baby Yoda (aka Grogu). On this planet a very young looking Luke, all CGI, is meditating with the young Grogu. Grogu is cute and all, but it would be helpful if he could speak. I pause here to point out that in Luke setting up this Jedi School where he would be the teacher, he is revealing that being a Jedi is a learned skill. Contrary to the entire films surrounding Rey, where she had an inate ability with the Force, Grogu is learning the skills that he will require. The Mandalorian comes to visit to drop off a gift. A choice is provided to Grogu. What did this all mean in the grand scheme of things? Very little. It was an unnecessary side story trying really hard to find a thread of this nonsense and how it fits into the original series, since it is set almost immediately after Return of the Jedi. Ah, but then it has elements of spaghetti westerns with outlaws and gunfights with the local sherriff and a bad guy, as well as Dune, with some spice trade on planet (strange as it was never brought forward as an issue before while Luke was there) and Godzilla vs Kong with incredibly a Rancor. Go figure! So in short, it didn’t get any better. When I had heard that a young Luke was going to make an appearance, I wondered where they would take it. Now I know, and I wish I hadn’t. I never bought into Boba Fett as a gangster figure, vying to take over Jabba the Hutt’s territory. That was a central part to this. In the end, this isn’t must see Star Wars material. It reminds me of the cartoon Clone Wars that you can take or leave. Coming later this month is Ewan Mcgregor returning as Obi Wan Kenobi and the return of Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader. I cannot recemmend this mess, and in fact I would actively avoid it if you are able.

Gaslit: Julia Roberts and an unrecognizeable Sean Penn star as the Watergate era couple John and Martha Mitchell in this new series on Crave. It surrounds the events around the 1972 Watergate break in, a turning point in American politics where the then-President Nixon resigned as a result of this botched attempt to break into the Democratic National Party offices to find dirt on the party for the upcoming re-election of Nixon Administration. John Mitchell was the Attorney General at the time of the break in. His wife Martha was a known socialite. My knowledge of Watergate largely comes from reading and writing on Blind Ambition by John Dean, and All The President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It is familiar territory in terms of the players, but this is showing in a different light. This is on Sunday nights and after watching the first episode I was googling these figures of the Mitchells to get some more background. It seems that Martha was an interesting figure who was a little unpredictable. The powers that be, like Pat Nixon kept her at arm’s length. But she liked attention and sought it out, and was uncomfortable when her husband was being secretive. The entire series hasn’t been released, and I have only seen two episodes but it is interesting to watch. I had always had a higher opinion of John Dean. Dan Stevens plays him here as a bit more of a kiss ass, bumbling wanna-be insider who was willing to do whatever was necessary for the President. He worked for Mitchell who pulled the strings. Meanwhile he meets up with flight attendant Maureen who is another of the intriguing characters who is politically opposed to Nixon and his administration, but likes the idea of being close to power. Dean pursues her with determination. She is played by Betty Gilpin of GLOW fame. I will continue to watch.

The Dropout: Amanda Seyfriend stars playing disgraced Silicon Valley fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos. I have only watched the first episode of this eight episode series. On the face of it, I am not sure that I can invest almost eight hours into this story. She went to Stanford briefly, her Dad back in Texas was part of Enron, and she wanted “to become a billionaire”. It seemed along the way that she wanted to skip the steps required to attain the end goal. But there were smarts, and unbridled ambition. She wanted to make something of herself. At the age of 19, she was looking to enter into graduate level programs while still an undergrad. This series will live and die on whether you believe the work of Seyfriend, and she is good. Kate McKinnon was originally slated to play the lead role but bowed out without any explanation. You can see the beginnings of her start with this first episode. She meets up with Sunny Balwali played by Naveen Andrews when she is learning Chinese in China, and he a much older successful business man who had sold his software company and wanted to learn Mandarin. I will continue to watch a couple more episodes to see if this can hold my attention. I would feel better about this if it was fewer episodes, but then again it may surprise. With the real life Elizabeth Holmes on trial at the same time this can provide some background into some of the details of this ongoing saga. The lessons to be learned obviously are that people and companies are not always what they seem, ironically she came from a family involved in Enron, but other companies like Bre-Ex, the gold fraudsters also come to mind. Caveat emptor when buying stock and investing money!!

https://www.imdb.com/video/vi3293233945?listId=ls025720609?ref_=ext_shr_lnk

April 25, 2022

The Northman: What can one say about a movie when the best thing about it was the popcorn in the theatre? For context, I don’t usually eat or drink anything at the movies. But I was given a movie night out coupon which included two drinks and a popcorn. Butter on that popcorn was extra, which strikes me as rude, but worth the splurge! But back to the movie. Alison had sent to me a featurette on youtube describing the Making of the Northman, with the cast, director and others. It seemed that they painstakenly tried to reproduce the Nordic times around 840 AD. There is a decent cast with Alexander Skarsguard, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke and Nicole Kidman. I am NOT a Nicole Kidman fan, which I will state at the outset. From that little featurette they sum up the story as Hamlet in these times, which isn’t necessarily a good thing either because of all the Shakespearean plays that I have seen and studied in my youth, Hamlet was one of my least favourites. For me, the inaction of Hamlet in exacting his revenge on his Uncle just frustrates me. For those who haven’t studied Hamlet, then just think of the story as The Lion King. Same thing. I will add that there are aspects of Macbeth in this storyline too. In short, a young man seeks to avenge the death of his father at the hand of his Uncle. Although the film states it is set in Iceland, it was actually filmed in Northern Ireland, where much of Game of Thrones was filmed. The scenery can be beautiful with the cliffs and the water and the green mountains.

The movie itself is dark, like many movies these days. It is also slow, like Hamlet. It plods along. It is never a good sign when one checks their watch a few times during the film to see how much time is left in the over 2 hours runtime. There is a great deal of time spent showing the spiritual aspects of Viking/Nordic life. They channel animals a great deal while others can be regarded at the time as Christian. But most of all there is fighting and a ridiculously violent game of field hockey. Overall, this was much ado about nothing. Despite the claims that this was “a Gladiator for the 2020s” I cannot agree. Gladiator was a story of vengeance, much in the same way, and they share some wonky CGI between them which is disconcerting, but that is where the comparisons end. Gladiator won a Best Picture, among its five Oscars and Best Actor for Russell Crowe. It also had outstanding music by Hans Zimmer where this movie has strange and unusual music that was more of a distraction than an enhancement. I haven’t watched The Last Kingdom on Netflix which deals with Vikings, but there may be some similarities there. The realistic part of me wonders without any modern medicine how these people could survive the elements and the injuries that they encounter. I do know that I wouldn’t want to live in such a brutal time. I certainly wouldn’t want to live with Nicole Kidman as my mother figure!

Radioactive: On Crave I watched this movie about Marie Curie, released in 2019. It stars Rosamund Pike. Set in the late 1800s, the Polish born Marie was at the Paris based Sorbonne University but getting little respect from her colleagues and the powers that be. They had little time for dealing with a woman in those male dominated times. This woman was demanding, and looking for equal footing in her studies. She meets up with another scientist, Pierre Curie who had a lab of his own and a small team. He recognized her talents, and built upon them. Marie was studying uranium, and its properties and she proposed that there were more elements at work as she looked at the uranium. Ultimately she found two new elements in the periodic table, radium and polonium. Later the older Curie has her daughter, played by Anya Taylor-Joy explain that French soldiers on the front were having their limbs amputated for sprains and minor injuries that a mobile x-ray machine would help to fix. She was a very determined and stubborn woman, as I expect that she needed to be. She was in an all male profession, and she became the first ever women professor at the Sorbonne. Her family, daughter and her husband were together responsible for four Nobel Prizes. The most of any family. In the women, I found it a bit disjointed to be bringing forward images of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, Chernobyl and also more modern x-ray/radiation machines that looked to address cancer. Curie was instrumental in finding and better understanding radiation and its uses. She is not, of course, responsible for how it was used, and how it has negatively impacted the world. Hers is an interesting story, but as a movie it was just okay. I think that Pike is good for roles like this and she challenges herself with them. I think that she is very talented and has grown way beyond the roles from James Bond or others where her looks were more important. This was interesting and made me look a little further into the life of Marie Curie.

After Life: I finished the third and final season of Ricky Gervais’ series. Sadly he decided to remove two of the actors from the first two seasons. He also in the final act had to rush through addressing the resolutions to the ongoing plots to the supporting characters. It felt a bit rushed and more than a little forced. I note that he decided to go for more of the sentimentality side of things and turn one way versus another for his own character. It was a bit disappointing to be honest. This was a series that dealt with serious issues, and had elements of sadness and laughter. It was profane. There is language that will make some viwers uncomfortable. But there is an underlying message, that usually are delivered by the supporting cast about life in the here and now. Tony has suffered a great loss, with his wife passing on from cancer at far too young an age. He in many ways, which he acknowledges, puts his own loss and feelings ahead of those around him selfishly. That is a valuable lesson. There is further a discussion about elements of the hereafter, as the title suggests which are thought provoking. There was one addition in season 3 that wasn’t referred to in the other seasons which became an easy out for resolving some issues. It was a bit of a cop out. I saw some resemblance to The Office and the banter there. This small fictional town in England with the local free newspaper was a pleasant place to spend some time. Well worth watching, although you may be wishing that the main character Tony would be able to live more looking into the future rather than torturing himself with the past. Life is about choices.

April 18th, 2022

Return to Space: So while recovering from Covid, I was flipping through some online news items last week and hadn’t remembered seeing anything about this at all:

April 8th, the Axiom crew of four launched and meets up with ISS

I had watched closely the launch a year ago with Bob and Doug the astronauts on the Falcon rocket meeting up with the ISS for their 60+ day mission. It was exciting to see a US launched space craft with human passengers off into the heavens to re-start American efforts in space. The Netflix documentary covers Elon Musk and his desire through the privately owned Spacex to have humans be interplanetary. Such a bold vision for a guy who had begun as a Dot Com billionaire with the sale of Pay Pal. From there he begins this thought, along with a little start up company called Tesla! If you think that you have a busy life, imagine what Elon’s life is like everyday! This enterprise, well detailed in the documentary shows that not everyone was on board with the Obama Administration plan to have a public-private partnership in sharing the expense of space travel. At congressional hearings, there was Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan stating that this program was doomed to fail. Hurtful comments to the young Musk who idolized these men as a young man, as they were the inspiration to return to space from their voyages to the moon in the late 60s and early 70s. Sadly after the space shuttle, the US efforts stalled and there wasn’t much done towards the moon or mars. Musk wanted to change that. I admire Musk and him utilizing his brains, business acumen and vast wealth to seek goals that aren’t about him, but rather moving human kind forward. Unlike say a Bill Gates, who spends money on parks which is valuable but a less lofty goal, Musk sees this enterprise as vital to advancing the species. He states that technology isn’t a given and we cannot expect the window of opportunity to head to other worlds to last forever. The Egyptians made the pyramids and then stopped, and lost the ability. The Romans built aquaducts and lost the ability to do so. The US was on the moon and 50 years later hadn’t been back. This is exciting, like the technology used to recover the first stage booster rockets and re-use them. It is heart warming as a Musk is seen to truly care about the responsibility to returning to astronauts who are also Dads safely back to earth. It shows vision and determination, and an international cooperation (like working side by side with Russians) to achieve something memorable. I hope that we are not becoming so casual about these achievements that a launch ten days ago does not become common place and taken for granted. Great things are happening at SpaceX. Let’s hope the moon base and then Mars come next.

Gaming Wall Street: This is a two episode documentary that shows what mankind can do, especially financially driven people, when money is at the top of what motivates them. In the wake of The Big Short, where the bankers and investors packaged up useless high risk mortgages and passed them off as safe investments, there is this tale of the “meme stocks” which have been made popular by a group or ordinary discount investors who band together to drive up the prices. All this to combat against the short sellers. The main stock in question is GameStop, the retailer of video game systems and games at local malls everywhere. Sadly their business model has fallen on bad times (like Blockbuster with renting DVDs) because of online downloading of games from manufacturers. The stock was failing. But these investors decide not to see and drive up the price. This goes against what Wall Street pundits were betting on, as they had bet on the stock to fail and go down, otherwise known as shorting the stock. But by driving up the price, these average investors were forcing those Shorts to cover their bet and lose millions of dollars. The tale unfolds. What you discover is that nothing was learned from 2008 and the approached collapse of the financial system. No one was arrested from that situation, despite the obvious illegal activity. The same players find another game to play, in this instance called Naked Shorts, where if they cannot secure the actual stocks that they are betting against, they create them out of thin air. These people create nothing, make nothing and profit from pure gambling. The simple solution may be to just outlaw short selling of stocks, but where is the fun in that? The ultimate message that as an ordinary investor that the big players really manage the game and make the rules. One can only hope to ride a wave and not get crushed. Watch with some knowledge that you may not always like what you hear. I wouldn’t be looking to have most of my retirement money, like one of the ordinary investors, in GameStop stock long term.

Julia: I have finished the first four episodes of this series, with four more to come. I continue to enjoy the series and think that the lead actress has done an admirable job channeling Julia. In many ways this is a woman power story, with the men dithering around and not seeing the vision of TV nor of viewers being interessted in watching a woman demonstrate French cooking. The women around Julia are the ones who see her excellence, her presence and passion. She is ideally suited to the task and they are commited to making her a success. There are glimmers of hope as the station manager supports her from early days. His wife likes the program, and he likes what she is serving for dinner as a result. There is a real buzz around the show, and the other enterprising female producer has taken it upon herself to syndicate the show and sell it to other local public broadcasting stations. A first. For those of us used to The Food Network, the early days of public television are fun to see. I remember Graham Kerr, the Gallopping Gourmet and his endless cups of wine and cooking in clarified butter. He wouldn’t have been on TV without Julia and her program’s success.

After Life: I have completed two short seasons of this three season series starring Ricky Gervais, both writing and directing. It centres around his character Tony, who has had his 20+ year marriage end with the death of his wife to cancer. They were connected. They were happy. He works at a small local free newspaper, with a cast of characters, not unlike The Office. Tony is struggling, and has suicidal thoughts. He sees his lack of caring about those around him as allowing his grumpy old man to come out. He has an adorable dog. If it all sounds depressing, it isn’t. Rather it can be very funny while also having moments of warmth. He has a very cutting sense of humour, and can be very brutal. He is vulger. I laugh. Not everybody may. His interactions with others in the town, like the postman, a lady who lost her husband and sit by his graveside each day or the nurse who helps with his Dad who is a bit scattered in a home are good. Two of the characters from Seasons 1 and 2 don’t show up for the final Season 3. It was a bit of a surprise. But I still enjoy and wonder where they will take this series for the conclusion.

April 11 2022

First of all, a shout out to my brother who won the Oscars Pool that I created. I am thinking that he should be betting with his record. To put it into perspective, he was able to get 38 points, 4 more than my eldest son. He only missed ONE question for Best Cinematography out of 23 categories. Damn impressive. Alison was third with 27 points. I sadly in a tie for fourth with 16 points.

Death On The Nile: Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and she was a prolofic mystery, who-dun-it mystery writer. She wrote Murder on the Orient Express, among many others. Her writings have been put into TV series, like Agatha Christie Mysteries and others in BBC and elsewhere. Kenneth Branagh has brought Orient Express to the big screen back in 2017. I have not see it. Given this result, I likely won’t seek it out. This story is brought with another star studded cast. Among the stars include Wonder Woman Gal Gadot. Ridley Scott is involved for executive producing, while Branagh directs. The focal point is the French detective Hercule Poirot. Gal Gadot is the main star with a supporting cast that includes Annette Bening, Armie Hammer, and Tom Bateman. In this story Poirot is shown early as a young soldier at the front in 1918. He makes an observation which is game changing for his platoon during an offensive push. It basically gives the message that he is a smart and observant guy. Time moves forward and he observes a couple on the dancefloor being very connected (Hammer and Emma McKay) and she is a friend of Gadot who arrives with much fanfare and paparazzi at this club. Jazz music is playing as the couple danced provacatively. As an aside, the band was playing electric guitars in a time noted as 1937. I do believe that this is early for the use of the electric guitar and I would have expected to hear more big band music. Incidentally, it was in 1936 when was first used by jazz musician Charlie Christian. Anyway, the story went forward as the young Emma McKay encourages her fiance to dance with the dazzling Gadot character. It ends up resulting in the fiance dumping his paramour and opted instead to marry the Gadot character. They decide to have a honeymoon on the Nile in a grandiose side-wheel boat. All of this, of course, in CGI that makes this look more like a TV movie than ready for the big screen. The underlying theme in this episode is people will do a lot for love. People start to get knocked off in mysterious circumstances. Now the survivors turn to Poirot to provide some insight into the murders. Was I entertained? Somewhat. It wasn’t overly convincing. I will confess to having some ideas on the true murderer. The end wasn’t a surprise. Can I recommend this? Not really.

Spiderman: No Way Home: I will confess that I am not a superhero guy, which is no surprise to those who know me and read these blog entries. Further, I am not a spiderman guy at all. I feel as though it has been overdone. Before we allow one set of movies to sink in, then another reboot occured. From Tobey McGuire and Kirsten Dunst, to the Andrew Garfield iteration and now Tom Holland. Tom Holland brought Spiderman into the Iron Man, and the Avengers universe. Adding in a character like Doctor Strange, adds in another dimension, with multiple timelines. And by timelines we have the villians from previous Spiderman films who don’t recognize the Tom Holland character who need to be put back into their own times. Doc Oct is there, along with Wilem Dafoe as The Green Goblin, and Sand Man etc. It was confusing. Returning a villain to his version of the Spiderman world is just odd. I won’t delve into more of the plot, but this was THE movie in the theatres last year. It grossed insane amounts of money and that confuses me. Not every movie needs to be an Oscar contender. Hell movies like the recently reviewed Fast & Furious are prime examples of movies that are just meant to entertain. This isn’t for me. Sure Tom Holland has personality, and he is engaging as a Spiderman. There are new gadgets that Spiderman can be equipped with, which was entirely new. I don’t know the comics. I don’t know the backstory and therefore I feel that it is difficult to comment further. Will there be more of these? Let’s not kid ourslves, there will be plenty of these movies to come. I know that I don’t need to pay to see these in the theatre, but if they are on a free streaming service then I can check them out.

Julia: This is a new series from HBO Max. For me, my limited knowledge of Julia Child was Meryl Streep as Julia in Julie & Julia with Amy Adams. I own the book Mastering The Art of French Cooking. After watching that movie I was moved to make Boeuf Bourginon.

Sarah Lancashire embodies Julia Child. I have watched the first two episodes and I think that she is excellent. Julia Child was passionate about her husband, France, and her food. These shows are all about the food really. This show focuses on the time after the cook book was released, her husband Paul has retired from the diplomatic service and she is looking to establish herself as a TV personality. In episode one, we see David Hyde Pierce playing Paul not really being overly supportive of Julia’s idea of starting a new career into TV. We take TV for granted. Back in her day, however, she didn’t own a TV, and there was skepticism over whether TV would last. This is shocking to my generation and later. But also this was the early days of “Public Television”. Those who grovel for money shamelessly in the Membership drives. Julia had the ambition to think that she could diversify the way that Amercian housewives are going to cook in the household. Back in the day of Swanson frozen dinners, this was revolutionary, along with the thoughts of using real herbs. Julia was passionate about having recipes that had everyday ingredients in the average grocery store. To say that she was a main contributor in the way that we eat today wouldn’t be overstating it. I have finished two episodes and look forward to more. David Hype Pierce isn’t as supportive to Julia as the Stanley Tucci version of Paul in Julie & Julia. I like the idea of understanding in putting together a 30 minute show on making a lengthy dish like Coq au Vin. It looks delicious. Julia Child was a visionary, and a trail blazer in which today’s networks like Food Network and all its stars all can thank her. Remember that her times were more all about the men, and the women were supporting cast members only. Well worth the view.

The Ultimatum: this new Netflix series comes from the same team, Nick Lachey and his wife, who brought forth Love is Blind. Love is Blind was the where singles never laid eyes on the other person, and had to propose to them before laying eyes on them. They spoke to each other in dates through an opaque glass. It was preposterous and mind candy really. In this series there are six Austin Texas based couples where one of the parties wants to force the other party to marry them. They have come to this show to have a marry up or walk away discussion. The kicker in this is that you do this in front of the other person that you want to marry. In this show, they then choose another of those people in the couples to live with for three weeks! Oh and they all live in the same building and then have conversations with the other members of their sex on (Girls Night Out and Boys Night). It is remarkable and scary at the same time. These 20s age people are dealing with their own relationships and thinking that they to get married straight away and have kids. It is a train wreck. But it is crazy fun to watch. After three weeks with the “New Accelerated Marriage” then they are to return to their original partner. Oh what fun! If these shows aren’t your thing, stay away. If you want tears and drama, this is for you.

April 4th, 2022

Wishful Drinking: Carrie Fisher has done a number of one person shows. In 2010, at 54yo, and 6 years before her untimely death, she wrote and starred in this play/documentary. It was more of a documentary and she walked through her life history and that of her parents. Being born to famous people, and for her this was the pinnacle of fame with Debbie Reynolds, one of the biggest Hollywood stars and Eddie Fisher, a smooth singer and actor in his own right, the spotlight was firmly on them. Especially shortly after Debbie gave birth to their son, that Eddie became closer and closer to good friend, Elizabeth Taylor. After her husband’s, Mike Todd’s early death at the age of 50 in a plane crash. Taylor married eight times, later dumps Eddie for the charismatic Richard Burton, who she later divorced and re-married (and then divorced)! It is complicated chart or relationships that Carrie tries to explain with some humour. Carrie Fisher owns her faults, and readily admits to the drug and alcohol abuse. She knows everyone it seems in Hollywood, and in the New York scene. Not only from her parents but also her own career with Star Wars and all those people (George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill etc). Heck, Meryl Streep played her in Postcards From The Edge, her story. This is entertaining and sheds some light, although filtered, into the life of a young person thrown so early into the spotlight. Mom, Debbie Reynolds, had Carrie on stage and performing with her when she was very young. It shows in a way that isn’t surprising to anyone, that money and fame don’t buy happiness. Carrie had her demons and they took over her life a number of times. She was a good writer, and had a sarcastic wit. This is presently on Crave, and it is surprising to realize that she has already been gone for 5 years. Time when Covid has been around has simply stood still. When one thinks back, you almost have to add two years to any estimation when something happened.

The Martian: I re-watched this Ridley Scott film starring Matt Damon this past week, and once enjoyed thoroughly enjoyed it. This was released in 2015, but as noted above it doesn’t feel that long ago. I remember I liked the movie so much that I went out and bought and read the book. It also has the same humour in it as the films, and goes into more detail into a few other things for the character left on Mars by mistake. It is a worthwhile read. This is a very good cast, in an interesting story, with plenty of space and science for those not looking for Star Wars or Aliens. Rather it explores a scenario which could occur one day as humans explore other worlds and moons more regularly. There is a message of global cooperation which is sorely needed in times of war and conflict/sanctions. I really like the humour and how it is not all seriousness and problem solving. I think it also ingenious to show the thought process of how one works the problem to then move on to the next rather than being overcome with the gravity of a situation in its entirety (being on a planet with no communications, limited food and equipment). It would be easy to give up. Character and the human condition shows how we don’t go down without a fight.

CODA: I also re-watched the 2022 Best Picture CODA, and the Best Supporting Actor winner. I had texted Alison about doing so and she reflected that she thinks that this movie can be one like The Green Mile, Or Shawshank or Ferris Bueller that no matter how many times you have seen it, you will pause when you see it on a channel listing. I would agree with that. I liked this again on second viewing. I liked better seeing the subtitles from the beginning, as I hadn’t had them on my first viewing until some minutes into it. I like the growth of the family as a unit and individually. Each of them has to stretch and address their place in the family and how they can interact with each other and the community. Parents learn that children are not clones of themselves, and have their own wishes and aspirations and dreams. These dreams don’t always coincide with the parents had thought. We learn that a young woman, finishing up high school who thought she was destined on the career of fisherman on her Dad’s boat, had a new world opened to her because she had a skill than no one else in her family had. This skill was encouraged by the memorable teacher Berrrrrr-nardo but also because of her interest in a young man in her class, who joined the Choir.

Dad is a hard man, who has isolated himself and doesn’t like people generally. Not his fellow fisherman, and not the town. He loves his wife and his family deeply. The emotional hook for the film for me can be seen with his relationship with his daughter. I also liked how the tie in between the early question from the music teacher of “how does singing make you feel?” is answered then and later not through words, but sign.

If you haven’t seen this yet, seek it out. Maybe bring a tissue along too. Also as the Grammy’s last night celebrated Canadian singer and songwriter Joni Mitchell, you can feel the emotion of her song “Both Sides Now”. Our young actress has an excellent voice, and she is very good in this role. You care about her, and her family.

March 28 2022

Oscars 2022: So the Oscars were last night and no one who watched from the beginning can complain that it was a boring affair. For those of you who didn’t watch, there was an altercation between Best Actor Will Smith and comedien Chris Rock on stage during the performance. Chris Rock was making a joke about GI Jane and Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith about her shaved head, and Will Smith laughed at first and then reversed and took exception going onstage, slapping with an open hand Rock and then telling Rock to keep his wife’s name out of his act.

Will Smith initially laughs and then slaps Chris Rock

I will leave it to the reader to decide whether this was put on or whether it was real. And for those who stayed to watch the rambling tearful acceptance speech from Smith himself when he won for Best Actor, you can decide. For an Award show that has lost viewership in droves, and has been called irrelevant, this type of stunt would not be beyond Hollywood! A couple of questions though: would Smith have done the same thing if one of the MCs like Amy Schumer or Wanda Sykes had done the same thing? What message about violence in our society are we giving when two men have to resort to physical violence to look to resolve their differences. For a comedian himself, Smith doesn’t have much of a sense of humour. It has been well publicized his marital issues at home. This seems to be much ado about nothing. From the still shot above, it would appear that Rock still had a smile on his face after it was slapped.

As for the rest of the night it had a few surprises in the selections. Do I think that CODA was the best film of the year? In a weak year when not much of substance was released, this was a feel-good story well told, but no I don’t. I think the movie that will be remembered from this year will be Dune. Still, perhaps the voters feel that we need more movies like CODA which is fair. Will Smith wins for Best Actor, and from the fireworks earlier in the night perhaps some voters might have wanted to change their votes. For me, I think that Andrew Garfield was robbed in his triple threat role in Tick, Tick, BOOM! Talk about taking a role outside your comfort zone, Garfield claimed to never be a singer. He was amazing. Jessica Chastain wins for portraying Tammy Faye Bakker in an award that for me was for her body of work rather than this particular role. Chastain has been doing quality work on many projects for years. She is one of the actors that I will seek out in projects. The Oscar for her work and efforts, especially in obtaining gender pay equality and having more positive roles for females in films is commendable. She worked on getting Tammy Faye made for over a decade. She made it happen, and it won two Oscars (for her and makeup). Well done Jess! Dune won many of the technical awards, and it shows that the time spent by Denis Villeneuve on making his epic look amazing was well spent. I cannot agree with Best Director in Jane Campion, but then again I didn’t like her movie, even a little bit. So I think that Kenneth Branuagh deserved this award for Belfast, and it was also my selection for Best Picture. It was good to see a much thinner Francis Ford Coppola on stage with Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro to celebrate 50 years since The Godfather was released. It is a masterpiece and was followed up with a sequel that rivals any sequel as the best of its kind. Also on stage we had John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Samuel L Jackson who allowed Will Smith to use up all the profanity allowed on the forecast, but came together 28 years since Pulp Fiction was released. The effort looked forced I have to admit with the dancing, and the opening of the suitcase. Here’s hoping that the coming year has more theatre-worthy films that have more quality performances and memorable stories.

Oscar Short Films: Alison was kind enough to send along this link for me to find the Oscar short films. I did see a few of them including Robin, Robin which was cute, The Queen of Basketball, which was eye opening, and sadly reaffirmed what Cheryl Miller showed us all in the lack of pro basketball options for women in Women of Troy and the USC team there. A fine documentary.

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/a39124052/how-to-watch-oscar-nominated-short-films-animation-2022/

I will say I also watched Audible, which was interesting as a young deaf football player deals with the death of a close friend and closing out his high school playing days. He is from a hearing family. So he understands the isolation and loneliness that CODA speaks about. Affairs of the Art was simply weird. There are some good drawings, but the content was strikingly different. Three Songs for Benazir was only 20 mins with dubbed in English, set in Afghanistan. It shows me just how little I know about this country and that part of the world. We are so fortunate that we have a safe, stable and secure country in which to grow and have life choices. For this young man, married and with a pregnant wife with a grade 3 education, he has the choice of joining the army or working the opium fields. Nasty. Short films generally can be hit and miss, and I would like to think that the Oscars find more hits than misses. It seems the only time of the year I will find such films is for the Oscars or in September at TIFF.

Fast and the Furious 9: Amazingly and remarkably there have been nine of these movies made in this franchise. From humble beginnings on the streets of LA where Paul Walker was asked to infiltrate a group of teens street racing, this has grown into a worldwide undertaking. It seems that the stunts and stories have become almost comical, to the point that the actors themselves call it out in the movie. “We have gone on all these crazy missions, and we don’t have a scratch on us. What does it say about us?” No kidding! There are stunts with cars in this movie that are just simply too ridiculous to believe. One involves using a bridge rope to pendulum a car from one side of a cliff to another. The other involves a Fiero going someplace that a car would not and should not ever go, or try to go. But this is really the point in many ways. They have jumped, drifted, raced, crashed a car in every way possible in this series and so what can possibly be next? I cannot recommend this. It is too Ludicrous (pun intended) to be entertaining. Thank goodness that I didn’t need to pay for it.

Not a scratch!!

Oscars Pool Link 2022

As I have done in the past, I am running an Oscar pick pool. Best Picture nominees include: “Belfast”; “CODA”; “Don’t Look Up”; “Drive My Car”; “Dune”; “King Richard”; “Licorice Pizza”; “Nightmare Alley”; “The Power of the Dog”; “West Side Story.”

I have not seen only Drive My Car, which will be remedied this week.

http://www.officepools.com/invite/pickem/m/FJ83H7Q

Oscars are on Sunday

Please feel free to participate and share! Best of luck to those involved. Alison and my brother have done very well in past years.

March 21, 2022

Spring has sprung and thank goodness we can put Winter in the rear view mirror. I was away from this Toronto weather last week and didn’t watch any movies so nothing to post. This week I did manage to see a movie.

Alan Parker is a Director that passed away without a lot of fanfare in my knowledge back in 2020. I am realizing that he had a very good career, directing and writing some very good movies along the way. He died aged 76. Far too young. I have reviewed other films of his like Mississippi Burning on here recently. He had also done Midnight Express before that, as well as Pink Floyd The Wall, Fame, The Commitments and Madonna’s Evita. In 1987, just before Mississippi Burning, he had Robert DeNiro and the very hot actor Mickey Rourke to do Angel Heart. Also part of the cast was a very young Lisa Bonet, who had some scenes which she was more revealing than some were comfortable. She was 20yo but looked a lot younger. Charlotte Rampling was also part of this cast. The plot is set in the early 1950s. Rourke plays a private detective named Harry Angel, who is engaged by a man, played by DeNiro, who was looking for someone. His name is Johnny Favourite. A singing act who has a debt that needs to be repaid to DeNiro, but Favourite is suffering from amnesia and may in fact already be dead. Rourke is engaged to find out. He is engaged to track down Favourite and report back to DeNiro. Rourke begins his search and finds out information in and around NY, and then heads to New Orleans to follow up on leads. As Angel is investigating and using some aggressive questioning techniques, those involved seem to have issues which I won’t delve into further. Things continue to pile up, and DeNiro makes appearances along the way. The plot thickens for Harry Angel. This isn’t the strongest or best movie of Parker’s career. His movies have won an Oscar for Cinematography. He has a good eye and frames the action well. The memorable part for this movie would be the Bonet situation and her scene with Rourke and also the ending which will leave many scratching their heads. I had liked Rourke earlier in his career before he messed with his face and the ridiculous boxing choices outside of movies. I also have liked Robert DeNiro. Seems he kept his hair from The Mission with this movie. In the end, I look to write on movies that I have seen before Alison and I began talking about movies in the 90s.

Cyrano (2021): Those who know me are aware that I thoroughly enjoyed Game of Thrones. I liked the series (up until the last two seasons anyway) enough to read the books and fill in the holes not covered. I think that Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister was one of the best things about GOT. Peter previously for me had done Elf, as the famous children’s book writer Miles Finch, where he famously runs across a board room table to attack Buddy (Will Ferrell) who calls him an elf. Funny.

Dinklage signed up to do the classic tale of Cyrano, that Steve Martin did earlier with his version Roxanne, with Daryl Hannah. He plays the title character, no longer with a ridiculously long nose, but short of stature. This time the story is a musical. Haley Bennett plays Roxanne well. Cyrano is in love from afar with the woman Roxanne, who seeks “true love” rather than an arranged marriage that helps her station in life. She spies a young man in the audience at a performance where Cyrano shows his intelligence and wit, but she is attracted to his looks. She asks her friend Cyrano to help with an introduction. He does. The story continues in a predictable manner. For me, Dinklage like Russell Crowe in Les Mis or even more so Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia, should stick to acting and not singing. It can be painful. Dinklage is actually an improvement over the previous notables, but like Ringo Starr in the Beatles was given limited range to hit. The rest of the cast was all good. I think the story also benefitted from the recent success of the series Bridgerton where we have multiple ethnicities playing traditionally white roles. It makes sense. It reflects today’s society a lot more than in 1897 when Edmond Rostand penned the play. This was fun and satisfying despite the singing. Others sang well. There was real emotion with the final scenes with Roxanne. It is worth checking out, and seeing a different interpretation on a classic tale.

New York Times – Twitter Hack: On Crave they are showing investigative documentaries about current events. The one from yesterday investigated the story of the 17yo from Tampa who was at the heart of a hack on Twitter back in 2020. Celebrity users like Barrack Obama, Elon Musk, Joe Biden, and Bill Gates were offering money for Bitcoin transfers. It of course was a scam, and the investigation showed this young man was scamming people on Minecraft before he got into bigger issues. It was amazing to see how his phishing skills were used to gain entry into the Twitter servers and behind the firewall. It is a lesson in cybersecurity. As for this young man, he is in custody awaiting trial in Florida and they are looking for him to be tried as an adult. One man in Washington state is shown to have lost over $1M in Bitcoin to this guy and his accomplices. The young man then renegs on paying the illgotten booty to those accomplices and they then turn on him. Thieves are still thieves it seems. Character is something that you gain over time, and your reputation precedes you. It is odd seeing these hackers gathering in a bar and pouring champagne over their Rolex watches to show just how much money that they have. The good news for everyone is that this Twitter hacker only chose to run a modest scam for Bitcoin rather than take down the news feed and impact the fabric of the global economy for stocks like Apple, Amazon, Microsft and others. Worth checking out if you can find it.

March 7th, 2022

The Batman: This was a long awaited film, in the can much earlier in a pandemic that was delayed to get more of an audience. It was just released in Canada this past weekend. I went to see it in IMAX on Saturday night. It stars Robert Pattinson, from Twilight and Harry Potter fame from many years ago. This is a stand alone version of the Batman tale with no association to either Tim Burton’s from the 80s nor Christopher Nolan’s later on. For context, I didn’t like the Burton version of Batman with Michael Keaton, but I really enjoyed the Nolan trilogy with Christian Bale.

Robert Pattinson plays The Batman

As advertised this is a very long movie, at almost 3 hours. It can feel that way in a number of places. Without any fanfare or back story to Bruce Wayne this story dives right into the crux of the tale; corruption in Gotham City at its highest levels. Batman is already out in the streets and we are introduced to some familiar names, like Jim Gordon and Alfred (Andy Serkis). That’s one of the challenges and benefits to the material in my mind. A challenge because although the audience is familiar with many of the names and places that are re-introduced, they arrive with pre-conceived ideas on who they are, what role that they play and the basis structure. In many ways the roboot is resetting the chessboard with known pieces and movement, but with a new set of players directing the pieces. The pieces can move in all sorts of different ways. The director and script writer tells a darker tale, with darker scenes and a lot of rain. It feels like you are back in LA for the first Blade Runner with bustling streets and almost constant rain and darkness. On the streets of Gotham, there is guy who is killing high ranking officials and also leaving a greeting card addressed to The Batman. We learn that this is The Riddler and he is looking to uncover the ugly underbelly within Gotham. This has some ties into Bruce Wayne and the Wayne family. We learn this over time as the evidence is undercovered and The Batman is assisting the police along the way. The unravels slowly. Too slowly for my liking.

There are things that happen, like in many superhero movies, that are incredulous. Riduculous. But one goes with it. There are some cool toys, like a Bond movie, with the Bat mobile and the motorcycles etc. These are cool. There are some good stunts, production design, make up and costumes. Time and care was taken. Pattinson was committed and convincing. For Batman fans, they of course will see it. For non-Batman fans, is this a movie they need to see, in the same way that The Dark Knight with Heath Ledger as the Joker is a movie that everyone should see? I don’t think so. There likely will be more, as there is money to be made. Batman as we have seen is a big money franchise, the biggest in the DC comic world. More to come.

The new Bat Mobile

Movie Etiquette: Attending the movies at the theatre with an almost full theatre is a new experience for most in two years. The pandemic has made most of us turn inwards and watch from the comfort of our living rooms. We can talk, pause, eat loudly, head to the bathroom and move around freely while at home. We can watch On Demand, when and how we want. In the theatre, the movie has a start time. We thankfully have an assigned seat. This is a blessing in that we KNOW that we have a seat and we don’t have to be in line for hours ahead of time with a new release and popular movie. The downside is that with this assigned seat, you treat that ability cavalierly; you show up late, you make sure that even while being late you insist on getting your snacks. You decide to congregate in the entrance way and then light up your phone to try and see where your seat is, and then disturb other viewers. Those who were on time, and in their seats are compromised. They might miss something early in the film because you have to move into your seat. It’s annoying. Some of the blame should be on the theatres. There is something to be said for the owner closing the doors after the trailers are done. They know how much time that is to the minute. Respect your on time patrons by turning away those who are really late until the next show. My showtime was 6:45PM. There were people arriving at past 7:00PM. Not acceptable on any front. Being late is just as annoying as being Tommy Texter or talking or eating loudly. When you are part of a movie watching community, then respect those community members and recognize that others are just as importsnt as you are.

West Side Story: Steven Spielberg has taken on directing the iconic 1961 musical. Rita Moreno is an Executive Producer. Moreno won the Oscar for Supporting Actress from her role as the brother’s girlfriend. In truth I have not seen the original, remarkably really when I think about it. I know a number of the songs like “America”, “I Feel Pretty” and “Tonight”. This is the first time in a very long time with Speilberg hasn’t worked with John WIlliams. The songs, the dancing, choreoegraphy for him would have been something new. Spielberg dedicated this movie to his Dad. In short, this story is a modern day telling of Romeo and Juliet. In fact, as someone who knows the Shakespeare play pretty well, I noted that there are scenes that mirror the original very closely. Ansel Elgort places Tony, and he is best known for Baby Driver and The Fault in Our Stars. Rachel Zegler, unknown to me, plays Maria as his Puerto Rican love interest. She was one of over 30,000 women to audition. She has a great voice, and is of Colombian, Polish, Italian & German descent. She is a foot shorter than Elgort. Moreno plays an older woman who owns a local drug store and she has taken Tony in to help him after a stint in prison. The basic premise is that two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, are fighting over territory that is being torn down by the City in NY. Lincoln Center will replace it, and displace a lot of Puerto Rican residents and local whites. They don’t get along. There is a rumble developing to end all hostilities. The story continues. Tony meets Maria unexpectedly at a party and they have instant chemistry. There are underlying themes about violence and vengeance. The sad realities which mean that property and people are divided along racial lines, and people are viewed and judged by the colour of their skin and their country of origin. Hatred runs deep. The relevant question is whether this version of the story is watchable and entertaining? It is. This makes me want to see the original and compare. I have heard without confirmation that there are differences. For me, I think that the ending was abrupt. Different than the original material in a way that I can’t entirely agree with. More to the point, I don’t think that it goes far enough in looking to show a different attitude of all those involved. Elgort sings himself, and owns the role. Many of the supporting performances are strong, including the brother’s girlfriend Ariana DeBose nominated in the Moreno role again. It is nominated for Best Picture and I don’t see it as a remake. Still, it is a good story, well told. I am glad that I watched it and can recommend.

Tony and Maria in a new retelling of West Side Story

February 28th, 2022

First of all, I would like to congratulate Jessica Chastain for winning the SAG Award last night for Best Actress, for her role of Tammy Faye Bakker. I have been a long time fan, and although I don’t think of this as the strongest year for nominees (far from it), it is still recognition and acknowledgement. The Eyes of Tammy Faye, that I reviewed and didn’t love, was a project that she had worked on for 10 years. Getting that together, assembling the cast and getting the financing cannot be easy. Sadly the pandemic is hitting all the revenues from the film industry. So kudos to her in bringing it home. I will suggest that Andrew Garfield was robbed in the Best Actor category. For a guy who professed that he couldn’t sing, he was amazing in his role in Tick Tick Boom. I was very pleased to see that Jean Smart for Hacks won which was a great performance! If you haven’t seen it, check out that series.

Nightmare Alley: Another movie where the impressive cast is simply let down by a story that was boring. I was not engaged in this long winded story in the least. Set in the 1940s, in a carnival setting that roams from town to town there is the talents of people like Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, and director/writer Guillermo Del Toro. This is a remake of a movie from 1947. It falls flat. Cooper is the focus as a guy who does something nasty in the first few frames and then “runs away to the circus”. He meets up with a cast of characters who perform shows and fool the public for money. He learns some tricks of the trade and is introduced to the skill of clairvoyance. Generally it is the ability to be extra perceptive, and make choices about people generally, like young men will have issues with their father and women their mothers. People care about health, wealth and love. He meets Rooney Mara. Things happen. Later we see Cooper flying higher in society and looking to impress and be paid by a wealthy man. He is believing in his own “abilities” and selling others on it. The ultimate conclusion comes full circle, but it isn’t really satisfying. I note that even with this star studded cast, that no Oscar nominations came from it. None were justified. It seemed forced, with no real ability to draw the audience into the suspense. I had not realized until after watching that this was a remake. It makes sense, because the look and feel is very much what one might expect from the 40s. Updating the cast is window dressing for a story that is well entrenched in its time. The running time was 2:20 which is too long. I think the opening scenes with the carnival could be shorter. The point could have been made there sooner. In the end, this isn’t Best Picture nor is it worth spending this amount of time on. Sadly. I had such high hopes going into it with this cast.

Love is Blind: I watched Season 2 on Netflix. This is a guilty pleasure really. Such cheese in the evening to watch so many people enter into this “experiment” for which they are all so quick to refer. The premise is simple. Put 15 young men and women in a place for 10 days where they cannot see one another, but can only talk. Only upon being engaged can you actually meet this person, and try to cement the relationship. After a trip to Cancun and some time together back in the home city, in this case Chicago, do you have to ultimately decide whether to actually get married. That decision is left to the bitter end with friends and family in attendance at a full on ceremony. Every one who enters this show knows what they are getting into at this point. There are no surprises there. The editting of course makes a huge difference and I wouldn’t ever place a bet on who would remain together because much isn’t shown to us. If off-camera the couple had a blazing, three alarm argument about something that we didn’t see, we have no context in which to know where the participants head is at. They ALL want to be married. They ALL are in love with the concept of love. But are they finding the right person for them using this format. Of course the show wants to create drama to keep viewers engaged. This was a good season, I felt, because there were couples at different stages. Some more connected than others. Some where one party was more connected. Others still had issues with family and loved ones. The ultimate reveal was a good culmination of events. Obviously I won’t reveal who stayed with whom. But if you like this sort of thing, this is mind candy that although a little longer than it needs to be, can still be fun on a winter day.