February 8th, 2021

Mank:  The Golden Globe nominations came out last week for the Film and TV Dramas and Comedies.  On that listing came the Netflix film,Mank with an impressive cast including lead Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins (Phil’s daughter), and Tom Burke as Orson Welles.   Oldman plays Herman Mankiewicz, who was a writer in Old Hollywood.   For a lowly writer he seems to be very well connected with powerful friends, including Leo B Mayer and William Randolph Hearst among them.   He is a drunk but a well respected writer.    He is tasked with writing Welles’ Citizen Kane, which Welles at 24yo was brought in to resurrect RKO Pictures’ fortunes.   It is a black and white period piece set in the early 1940s with flashbacks.    Actually the flashbacks can be somewhat of a distraction, taking away from the direction that the story seems to be focused on.   It isn’t clear to me how the gubernatorial election in California from 1934 impacted the Kane storyline, despite having some nice tie-ins to more recent Presidential elections, and that is a criticism for me.   It’s all very fuzzy.   I would be much more interested in the making of the classic film.   The other major distraction for me is how a 62yo Gary Oldman, plays the 33yo Mank from 1940.   Why?   Add to this the backstory of his Oscar winning role of Winston Churchill and him claiming that he must have a fat suit, because he refused to add the weight that he said would be difficult to ever get back off after filming.   Well, he seems to have added the weight on himself, perhaps he swallowed the Best Actor Award?  One cannot say.    In the end, I cannot recommend this film.   It was long and slow.   It had brilliant production design for places like Hearst Castle, which in many ways one should know a little of that story (Hearst and Marion Davies) to put into context what transpires.   It looks beautiful.   The plot is a headscratcher from which Hollywood types will vote for it (like Birdman a couple years ago).  

The Flight Attendant: This Kaley Cuoco TV series is named as a Best Drama (Musical or Comedy)??, and her as a Best Actress.  Ummmm, no.   To me, the lines of Comedy get blurred when there is a murder to be investigated.   The series is all about that.   So it’s no Schitt’s Creek.   The eight episode storyline leans heavily on the pretty and drunkard young blond flight attendant and her life.    In many ways it channels the character of Amy Schumer in Trainwreck from 2016.   Schumer is funnier.  But here there are these surreal flashbacks when our constantly drinking protagonist messed up in a situation that clearly is way over her head that push this intoAmerican Werewolf in London territory.  Strange and yet an important plotline that they continue to perpetuate.    She is after all just someone who is a “party girl” and hooking up on a layover (literally and figuratively) with a handsome guy in first class.   Much of what happens is a drunken haze for her, but it comes back to her in snippets.    It all becomes a little too nice and tidy in the final episode.   You KNOW that they will be working on a sequel (season 2) so that many of the characters have to continue on.   I won’t be rushing out to see this character enter more shady situations.   I don’t think one wins awards for being pretty and acting drunk.    There is more than that. 

Tom Segura –(Netflix) I have seen now three separate comedy specials by this guy, and I like him.   I like his point of view and the stories that he tells.   It is light entertainment that is welcome in these times.   Much like Jim Jefferies he has a cutting humour, doesn’t really care about political correctness and makes interesting human observations.   Smile and enjoy!

November 30th, 2020

Flight Attendant: Kaley Cuoco was a huge star with the TV show for 12 years for The Big Bang Theory, a show that I have to admit that I have not watched. My youngest son is a big fan. Cuoco is not long the star of this new series, she is also the Executive Producer. There have only been three episodes released. In the US, it is found at HBO Max (which John Oliver makes a big joke about it time and again) but in Canada it is found on Crave and HBO Canada. The premise, so far, is that a flight attendant who seems to enjoy her jetting lifestyle of partying and various relationships. She meets a guy in her first class flight, who she post-flight meets up with them and they have a fling. She wakes up groggy and hung over the next morning, with him bloody and dead beside her. I give nothing away by providing this information. The trailer all but discloses this. She then begins to do many questionable things. Some more questionable than others; for example deciding not to not pick up the phone and just say what you know and can remember. It then snowballs into more complex deceptions, with some “supernatural” aspects where similar to American Werewolf in London, where the Attendant interacts with the dead rendezvous. She does far more drinking and sleuthing than is healthy nor recommended. Stay tuned, but I losing patience with this, despite hearing about some positive reviews of it.

The Crown, Season 4. This could be an entire posting unto itself. There is much to unpack here, with the 1980s coming upon the Windsors, as Charles meets Diana and Britain elects The Iron Lady, Maggie Thatcher, with her version of Reagan-omics with tremendous slashing of public programs, all the while spending money on an expensive long distance war with Argentina in the Falklands. In short, I think the Gillian Anderson did a marvelous job with Thatcher. But I wanted to address my thoughts on Prince Charles in this season. First and foremost, one must realize that this is NOT a documentary. We are NOT watching scenes acted with the knowledge and blessing of the Royal family. Every conversation behind closed doors is created. The series is very well researched, without a doubt. Having said that I switch from having sympathy for Prince Charles to having rage for him as a spoiled, unfeeling, uncompromising twit. He can do things with his much younger and stunning wife Diana (married at the age of 20yo) with his 32 years that are quite simply head-shaking. He is jealous of her popularity rather than embracing it. Yet, when he is having his troubles with Diana, he is completely marginalized by his Mother and Father. He is ignored. They won’t listen and he lives in this island. As before the wedding, Princess Anne very poignantly asks her sister the Queen when the family will stop forcing marriages onto people who don’t want them. It’s quite remarkable as you are screaming internally for attention that no one seems to acknowledge you. So as I said, he is intriguing, frustrating and utterly complex. I don’t presume for a moment that these people are in any way simple. The series is simply must watch TV for those who have any interest in the Royals, or Britain, or good story, acting and drama. Season 5 incidentally will have new actors for The Queen herself, Diana, Charles and others. I look forward to it.

In 1992, Spike Lee released Malcolm X, about the 1960s Black Activist. Denzel Washington plays the lead role, which I regard as one of his best. This is a very good ensemble cast, including Angela Bassett, Spike Lee himself, and others. The opening sequence of this movie shows the incredibly brutal attack by white police officers in LA on Rodney King. Twenty eight years later we had a similar attack on various innocent black people by white police. This movie is as relevant today in these times, if not moreso, than in those days of rioting back in LA. Injustice in whatever the time always seems to get people emotionally engaged. Sadly there is an ebb and flow which doesn’t result in underlying and fundamental change that seems to be more and more apparent. In this movie Malcolm X speaks of ridding himself and the black people of the trappings of white America. He speaks about the “House Black Man” in the times of slavery who speaks of “We” and “Us”, referring to him and the house owner as opposed to the labour out in the fields who are being oppressed. Goos points are made all around. It is compelling, and then the Muslim leader who Malcolm is representing is undermined by his own careless actions. Malcolm X in a time of martyrs, and violent assassinations (JFK, Bobby Kennedy, MLK etc) adds his name to a distinguished list, and in a most violent and remarkable way. If you didn’t know this, then I apologize, but you may wish to pay a little more attention in History class. Many lessons to be heard, and yet another time of unrest to show that this is an ongoing challenge for the United States. Do I believe that much has changed since the 60s? Not really. White privilege very much still exists and we all have a role to play. Maybe it starts with police department, but it certainly doesn’t end there (like with the Justice system, the voting and registration system etc).

Dolly: Here I Am: Late Friday night I ended up watching a documentary that I am certain my Mom would certainly enjoy. This is the story about Dolly Parton. For me I knew very little about her, except maybe her couple of signs, her bust, her tiny waist and wigs and a couple of movie roles. She was in 9 to 5, and also wrote the hit song about it, and also in Steel Magnolias with Julia Roberts and Sally Field. What I learned is that she has been around the Nashville, Grand Ole Opry scene for 50+ years. She has written 3000+ songs. She was challenged to write a song about love and she came out “I Will Always Love You”. The song Whitney Houston took to new levels in the movie The Bodyguard. Apparently it was a farewell song from Dolly to her TV boss Porter Wagoner. But it became an anthem selling millions of copies and making Dolly millions. She also wrote “Jolene” and “9 to 5”. She performed but didn’t write “Islands in the Stream” with Kenny Rogers. What you don’t see in this is NOT a story of fame and wealth undermined by drugs and philandering. Dolly is a business woman, and a remarkable talent who knows her brand. You also don’t see very much, or hear much about her husband Carl Dean for whom she has been married for 55 years. Such longevity. Hers is a story of talent, determination and staying power. Well done Dolly.