January 2nd, 2023 (Happy New Year)

The Whale: I had seen the coverage from one of the film festivals where Brendan Fraser in attendance at the cinema was given a rousing 10+ minute standing ovation for his performance in this stage play turned into a film. I was intrigued by this film directed by Darren Aronofsky. It has a simple setting and only a few characters which explain the treatment on the live stage. This is not an uplifting film, but far more down telling the tale of this middle aged man who is slowly but surely ending his life one bite at a time. All the characters involved in some have an element of self-loathing, shame and anger at the world. They aren’t a collective group that you would want to share holiday time.

Charlie is an online university English Literature professor. He appreciates the written word and he can write and teach effective essay writing. For his students, he tells them that his computer camera isn’t working and so while he can see them, they cannot see him. He is ashamed of himself and what he has become. He lives alone. Beyond delivery people, his only visitor is a nurse with her own backstory. A young man drops in by chance for a visit from “the church”. This young man also has his own story. Things happen. It turns out that Charlie was once married and that he has a daughter. He would like to try and reconnect with her. Daughter and Mom each have their own issues to address.

For me, none of the characters are very likeable. Each has their own challenges in the way that they have dealt with their circumstances. The principal focus of course being Charlie, and he continues to be his own worst enemy. From a practical standpoint, this is yet another example of a story that would be very different if it took place in any other country than the US. You see, Charlie has no health insurance, and he cannot afford to have crippling doctor bills. Much like Breaking Bad, and many other such situations if he lived in Canada, for example, he would have universal health care. He wouldn’t have to choose between getting treatment and leaving some financial assistance behind for his family. He would simply go to the hospital, see a doctor and get treated. Our system isn’t perfect, and this isn’t the forum to talk about it at length, but the Western World (save the US) long ago realized that health care is a right.

Beyond this, Charlie is making poor choices about eating and his health, but that is the point. He is smart enough to know better. He sees what is happening to him. He has made choices in life, and has suffered the inevitable consequences that we all do. He chooses to deal with it in a manner that many likely would not. Seeing him stuff unhealthy meal after unhealthy meal into his face is disconcerting. He feels disgusting on the inside, so he wants his outside to match it. His performance is very good, and will garner acting nominations with the Oscar seemingly a given. It is a welcome comeback for the Canadian actor, who has gone from being a heartthrob leading man with The Mummy and George of the Jungle to care less about his appearance. James Cordon apparently auditioned for the part of Charlie, and I will say that Fraser is I think a better choice for the character. For all his girth, Fraser has these sympathetic blue eyes that shown his inner turmoil. In the end, the daughter Ellie who likely already needed a good deal of therapy will likely need more. If you want to be uplifted and feel better when you leave a theatre, then this movie isn’t for you. If you want to see a really good performance, with some insight into other people and the pain that they have, then this is a good choice. You don’t need to see this on the big screen.

Somebody Feed Phil: Netflix has this TV series on created by Phil Rosenthal who worked on the show Everyone Loves Raymond, which I did not watch. The premise of this show is for Phil to travel the world and eat really cool local food. Phil is a foodie and clearly enjoys eating. He also likes sharing his food with his crew. I like that. Much like Stanley Tucci, Phil is doing a travel log as well as a food recommendation episode. He doesn’t limit himself to Italy, however, and I have watched the episodes on Lisbon, Madrid, Nashville and Montreal. I think the Lisbon episode was excellent showing the city, a city that I play to see later this year and this gave me some really good ideas on where to stop.

Phil sits at a restaurant with tables on a jetty in Lisbon. Amazing!

Phil enthusiastically eats five different types of shrimp at a different eatery. The show gives one a great sense of the place while introducing the food that is known in that area. In some ways it is like Rick Steves but without the historical background, see the markets, bakeries and restaurants. I heartily recommend this for anyone interested in food and/or travel. Phil certainly will have visited somewhere that will pique your interest, and your appetite.