December 5th, 2022

The Swimmers: I was encouraged by my Mom to check out this Netflix release. I am glad that I watched this. The story surrounds a family in Syria in the early 2000s. Dad was a swimmer himself and was teaching his girls, in many ways like Richard Williams with Serena and Venus, about being a champion and going to the Olympics. The goal was to swim for Syria in the Rio Olympics. In March 2012, fate stepped in with ongoing Civil War within the country. Remarkably with armed soldiers in the streets, military jets flying overhead, the girls continued with their training and their studies. Dad was committed to keeping the girls focused. The strife escalated, with a dramatic incident during a swim meet. The girls decided that they would flee Syria with a goal of going to Germany. Within Germany there was a program of family reunification for minors 18 years and younger. The girls with promises of continuing the training decide to take the unknown path of fleeing their country. Once in Germany they would seek the family to get back together again. The story continues.

I remember seeing news items during this time where the number of people leaving Syria was massive, and that people were losing their lives taking perilous journies in overcrowded boats to seek their salvation. At the end of the movie we are told that there were approximately 6.9 million people displaced since the beginning of the conflict, from a country that had a population of 21 million before the conflict began. The need for humanitarian aid hasn’t gone away. Many Syrians are still seeking asylum. To me it was interesting that Germany became the focal point, and they took on an enormous global burden.

The performances here were all very good. The scenes highlighted the gravity of the overall situation, and focused our attention on two engaging and different sisters (both in real life and in the story) who show the challenges of this very difficult time that still continues to this day. What has the world done to address the return of these people to their homeland? What CAN the world do against a country that splits their population and demands exile? The movie is well done and you cheer for these young girls. The acting is convincing, and the young actors involved are really good. I won’t divulge further what happens, but this story is obviously bigger than sport. I am certain that other world wide stories, like eventual stories that will come out from Ukraine will show other parts of the world, and in a time of preparations for holidays and end of year celebrations, the challenges that we have here in Canada are small in comparison to others in the world who are fighting for their very existence.

The Crown Season 5: I finished this season and felt that it was an inconsistent season overall. Some of the stories were slow, not revealing too much. I did not remember this whole debate about the Monarchy and the Royals, as between the weddings and the celebrations for the Queen and her longevity, it always seemed that there was plenty of support for her and the Royal family, especially William and Harry. I follow on with my initial thoughts about Elizabeth Debicki as Diana. Although way taller than Diana, the facial features and how she embodies her in the dress, mannerisms and voice are just remarkable. I am less enthused by Domenic West as Charles. The new King in reality cannot like this portrayal of him as this whiny King-in-waiting, looking to encourage Mommy to give up the crown. It’s not a good look when he meets with the Prime Minister without her knowledge and speaks of younger, more progressive men moving things forward. One would hope if this is all true, and there is much debate that it isn’t (which is very likely), that at his age now that he has toned that down some, and not as anxious to be impacting William’s birthright.

At the same time, the hairstyle for Camilla is spot on. Jonathan Pryce as Philip is not as effective for me, nor is Imelda Staunton. There is a scene with Charles and Diana post divorce where he just stops by, which I cannot imagine had ever happened. The story with the El Fayeds is not as compelling either. Diana was a target, and never had any peace it seemed, in many ways like Marilyn Monroe, who was also on film with a possibly more fictional story earlier this year. I do think that the people recognize Camilla more now, and that Charles has found his inner peace with the woman who clearly he has loved his entire life. The metaphors of the Brittania and other symbols range throughout the season, as relections on the Queen. William is seen as having challenges with being put in the middle of his feuding parents, while clearly being closer to Mom, he is uncomfortable with being her person to share her romantic life with him. Overall, in a series that has been excellent from the beginning, this season was not as strong for me. The final Season 6 will be coming, and we will have well covered ground with the death of Diana and the subsequent marriage of William and then Harry and maybe even seeing Andrew’s fall from grace with the scandal with Jeffrey Epstein.

Time Traveller’s Wife Series: I finsihed this series as well this week. I don’t have a lot more to add other than I am not seeing how much more that they can stretch a two hour film with side stories. Much of the movie addressed the whole idea of a child, and those challenges. Whether such child would have this same issue as the father. Only in the last episode of the series was this highlighted as a sticking point for the couple.


November 14, 2022

The Crown: Season 5 was just released on Netflix with an all new older cast as Queen Elizabeth ages. Now we have Imelda Stauton as the Queen. I have to admit that Clare Foy, seen in the first seen of episode 1 when she attends the ceremonial launch and naming of the Brittania, her official ship for touring, is my Queen Elizabeth. I think that she did such a masterful portrayal, and I can’t seem to get Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix out of my head when I see Stauton now. Dolores was such a nasty character and you wished for bad things to happen to her.

I feel much the same about the casting of Jonathan Pryce as Phillip, and for the new Charles played by Dominic West, known by me as the guy in The Affair. How appropriate! I do think that in bringing in Elizabeth Debicki as Diana was brilliant casting. She towers over West, and in truth is a woman at 6 feet 3 inches tall, but she has nailed the mannerisms and speech of the former Princess. She was excellent in Widows and Tenet. Having only watched the first episode, I can say that she is portraying the ill fated Princess admirably. I can see why King Charles, now that the Queen in real life has passed away, would not be anxious to have this released so near his coronation. Episode 1 is entitled Queen Victoria Syndrome, shows Charles to just be a dick. From engaging with Prime Minister John Major separately to discuss having the Queen give up her crown early to allow the next generation to take power, to his treatment of Diana as he dismisses his bride who only seems to want his attention and love. He is incapable of doing so. The reference to Queen Victoria Syndrome is with any longstanding monarch that the people grow to feel has become out of touch with her people.

Apparently the meeting with Major never took place, according to Major himself, and others have weighed in to speak about the inaccuracies to reality. Netflix is quick to point out that this is “entertainment” and they don’t profess this to be historically accurate. Still. Charles comes off again as being less sympathetic and whining that he is so progressive and deserves his chance to show what he can do. Given the love for the Queen, and despite the polls back in the 90s that felt she was “out of touch”, certainly when it came to Diana, there is little doubt that no one would support Charles on the throne sooner than he got it this year. Helen Mirren in The Queen, showed this magnificently and the struggles that the Queen had in dealing with the death of someone who was no longer part of the Royal family. In this episode, the not-so-subtle suggestion that the Brittania and the Queen herself were in need of a modernization/refurbishment is played out. Diana is the loving Mom to the two boys, and they adore her. As Major points out to his wife on a visit to the Royals, he seems them as not an example for the people to admire and emulate but as the entitled, isolated, whiny, dysfunctional group that they have become.

I look forward to more in this excellent series.

Love Is Blind: Season 3 came to a close and it had its fair share of surprises, and also predictable banter. From a surprise factor, those couple that decided to actually get married in the final two episodes were surprising to be sure. I had pegged a couple of those differently. Can I understand why they made their own very personal choices? Absolutely. Who ever wants to get married in a matter of weeks to someone who was a complete stranger?

It seems silly to expect that the little experiment would ever work, with so many challenges facing a young couple. The initial connection is within pods where they cannot see one another; one is expected to fall in love with the person and connect without added complexities of looks. Then they meet once they have proposed. Of course those who are motivated to be on TV and get their 15 minutes of fame are tempted to get hitched. Then the real world somewhat sets in as they meet other people from the pods and other couples. In this season, a couple of the young men show their immaturity and voice their thoughts about some of the other candidates of the opposite sex to their betrothed! What a mistake! For me this is mind candy, seeing how relationships unfold and either connect or fall apart. In some ways it is almost miraculous that couple decide to go through with it. The producers do find a way to keep picking at scabs for the couples as they revisit awkwards moments and places where people were not acting on their best behaviour. Of course, we as an audience only see what they show us, and all those many hours outside this show that were never ever brought forward. Families play a big part, and some decide that they will not support their own child in this endeavor. This is quite a surprise to me, as any family who would boycott a wedding for their child just surprises me. At the same time, there is evidence as to why they exactly that as part of the show. If you like this sort of thing, this delivers as expected. You will enjoy. If you don’t, then you’ll want to stay away.

January 24th, 2022

Fanny: The Right to Rock: Crave has this documentary that was recently released. It starts with three mostly grey-haired women in a convertible 60s era car and singing as they drive. We learn that these women were part of an all-woman rock band in the 60s. They were eventually called Fanny, with a drummer, two guitarists and a keyboard player. They were good players, notably with the bass and guitar player who were the front people for the band. They were on TV and released six albums. But fame and success was elusive.

Or this:

Hey Bulldog

The headwinds for this group was that they were ahead of their time. They had lesbians playing in the group. They were full on feminists at a time when Women Power was just emerging. The times were very different in the late 60s and early 70s. Despite having well known celebrities like David Bowie endorse them (and also date one of them), it was just not enough. Tours basically paid their expenses and lifestyle. But they didn’t get rich, even if some felt that they were the female Beatles. That was an overstatement according to history, but they didn’t have any hot pop songs. It’s one of the things about the music business that you don’t hear about very often. This band saw a glimpse of success, but it was fleeting and things just petered out. Now as these women enter their sixties, they are looking to recapture the magic, and gain back some notoriety. History has been more kind to them, and they want to see about ‘getting the band back together’. Things happen. It was a warm story and showed another side of the creative process. They wrote plenty of music. It can be catchy. I enjoyed this, and I was cheering for these women, despite the challenges that they faced previously and face today. Well worth your time.

Judy: A year later, I have finally taken the time to watch this movie about Judy Garland and some of her later performances. I am not a Renee Zellwegger fan. I have mentioned it before, and she won the Oscar for Best Actress for this performance. Other nominees included:

  • Cynthia Erivo. Harriet.
  • Scarlett Johansson. Marriage Story.
  • Saoirse Ronan. Little Women.
  • Charlize Theron. Bombshell.

Is this deserved? Not in my opinion. Cynthia Erivo was robbed really. But standing on its own, the performance is the best aspect of this tiring movie. It is slow. It treads along familiar ground with the aging child star, who is an addict, had a number of failed marriages and doesn’t really take care of her kids. Then it points the finger at Hollywood itself, and how they treated talent, but especially young female talent in the late 1930s. One wonders where the parents for young Judy would have been. A film exec/producer berates young Judy on the set of Wizard of Oz. The implication is that they are all to blame for how she has turned out. Part of this may be true, but where does individual responsibility come into play? I think of Judy Garland as “older” when she passed away, but in truth she died at the age of 47. That’s young. We are shown that she could be difficult, late, unreliable and unable to curtail her drinking even for a show. Very sad for a young darling of the silver screen. I can appreciate a performance even though I don’t necessarily like the actor. I am also on the side of believing that doing a biopic in many ways is easier than creating a character out of thin air and a script. There was footage of Judy Garland. One can mimic the way she spoke. Make up and dress can be the same. So much of the heavy lifting can be done. I cannot recommend.

The Crown: I re-watched The Crown recently and marveled at a number of things upon second viewing. I think universally the acting, sets and writing are excellent. Absolutely first rate. Clare Foy initially and Olivia Colman are both excellent portrayals of Queen Elizabeth herself. Matt Smith and Tobias Menzies playing Prince Phillip were excellent too. I feel that Season 3 showed much sympathy for Prince Charles. Played incredibly by Josh O’Connor. You see the young Prince as someone who has very little say in his life. Much of his goodwill however is lost in his relationship with Lady Diana Spencer. Diana was far younger than the Prince, and as Ann explains to the Queen in the show, Diana was more immature than her years and Charles was far beyond his biological age. Charles is a spoiled, self-centred young man, who feels slighted and bemoans his station because the powers that be deemed that Camilla was not worthy of being his wife. So they arranged for her to be married off. Add some political intrigue as Margaret Thatcher enters office as PM, played brilliantly by Gillian Anderson. In her performance we see who the real talent in the X-Files really was. But I digress. Events happen like the Falklands War with Argentina. And the avalanche in which Charles was caught in Switzerland. Not everything is entirely accurate, and it doesn’t pretend to be historically accurate. It is entertainment and it is very entertaining. I think we gain insight into the Royals, whether you like them or not. But they are well crafted stories and certainly are worthy of watching, even more than once.

November 29, 2021

Get Back: Peter Jackson a couple of years back did some work to take World War One film coverage and colour it, add sound and make it more relatable to today’s audiences and the result was the excellent They Shall Not Grow Old. He has turned his sites from New Zealand now into unseen raw coverage of a proposed documentary film for the Beatles in their writing new songs for what became the Let It Be album and the famous outdoor office roof performance from January 30th, 1969. I have not finished the series, three episodes and the first one is over two hours long. It chronicles the days leading up to the performance in early January 1969. I am forewarning viewers that this is a sizeable investment in time, watching the four members of the Beatles interact during rehearsals and early days. A couple of early observations: Paul seems to be the driving force to try and get the material completed, and come up with new ideas. His off-the-top guitar playing with rambling lyrics in a matter of minutes to ultimately begin the song Get Back is quite simply miraculous. I marvel at the creative process, and this is an excellent example of someone creating on the spot. I think generally Paul and John would work together on their own and bounce ideas off each other in their earlier days. Having a camera there to record everything is a little forced, but over time the guys tend to just be themselves. Some of the dialogue can be hard to hear and understand with the accents. Still it is compelling. I cannot see this early what Yoko Ono does on any level. She occupies a chair near John, but says nothing, sometimes reads or looks like she does some craft. She may have been emotional support for John, but creatively in this setting she does absolutely nothing. George is frustrated by this process, and you can see what eventually builds up to his departure from the band during this time. He is creative himself and talks about songs that he has developed but they all seem to be, in his words, much quieter songs. He seems angrier with Paul and he gripes about any show, and seems uneasy in his role as third wheel with Paul and John. He will “just play whatever [Paul] wants [him] to play”. Then Ringo is adding nothing creatively but has the daunting tasks of keeping up, and adding rhythm and beat for the songs being developed. John early on is fixated on working through the song “Don’t Let Me Down” and there is time spent trying to finalize that. For Beatles fans, this is a must see. For more casual fans, you can watch a creative process taking place in two weeks for writing an album that has iconic songs like Two of Us, Across the Universe, I’ve Got a Feeling, Long and Winding Road and of course Let It Be. Utterly remarkable.

Peter Jackson talks about John and Paul relationship – “how utterly painful this was for Paul”

Succession and The Crown: Discussion about how females are treated: I was re-watching the end of Season 3 of The Crown with the episode about the disintegration of Princess Margaret’s marriage to Anthony Armstrong-Jones but also the latest episode in Succession and the treatment of the women in these series. Margaret as the younger sister of Monarch Queen Elizabeth had plenty in her life impacted by the perceptions of how it will impact the Family and the Crown. She was unable to marry her true love Peter Townsend, who was divorced (because his wife cheated on him) because of the whole abdication of the Crown by Edward VIII. She has a tumultuous marriage with Mr Armstrong-Jones who openly is having an affair before the whole world, but no one seems to care about that, including her sister although she did encourage a reconciliation. But then Armstrong-Jones amazingly attacks Margaret for an affair with a younger man who has finally brought some happiness to her world. It seems her Family and her position will just not allow her to be happy. She wanted a meaningful role, in the same way that Phillip did and it just doesn’t come. The Queen is a strong character and develops into a force politically which many acknowledge in this third season, like Edward VIII himself when he was about to die. But Margaret is left to the sidelines to deal with her unfortunate station. In the latest episode in Season 3 of Succession, at Kendall’s birthday party, we see how Shiv is being turned aside in the family as Roman becomes more of the relied upon sibling to execute Dad’s wishes. Roman begins showing his true colours as he gains in confidence while Shiv becomes increasingly frustrated with her seemingly back seat role. Her husband, Tom, who has been fixated on his pre-determined path is given really good news, but he remains unable of moving forward. That marriage is an interesting one, and Shiv has seen her position relegated to secondary status. This season is fairly slow moving but it it brilliantly written with tremendous dialogue. Part of me thinks that the underlying premise is to explore how it seems first generations of wealthy families generate the money, and then the later generations fritter it all away. The story is not unlike the Vanderbilt story with Anderson Cooper just recently reviewed. But it is these female characters that in their time, Margaret was a completely different generation, while Shiv is more or less today, reveals that not much has changed for them and how they are viewed. Both women are extremely capable. Yet when the chips are down, it seems others are relied upon more directly. To be fair about Shiv, I don’t think that she did herself any favours by the events at the Shareholders Meeting. But ultimately we will see how it plays out. There are plenty of good things to be watching these days.

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.

November 16th, 2020

Good Liar: Is a 2019 film with an impressive cast of Helen Mirren and Ian McKellan. They are two people meeting up on a website, with the McKellan character looking to be one of these deceptive rogue types who are looking to bilk lonely women out of the wealth (see others like this with Love Fraud). Set in London, Mirren plays a widow who is seeking companionship. She meets up with McKellan who quickly gets close to her and then starts chatting up investments for her. The story continues. For me I was not surprised with where this story went. Others may not agree. I won’t disclose to avoid spoiling it. Suffice it to say that there is a point where details that weren’t previously shared become a turning point in the story. It all seems so very elaborate, but in a way that is somewhat confusing. Can I recommend it? As something to see on an airplane, as I did, sure. But otherwise I don’t see much need in seeking out further.

Season 4 of The Crown has just been released on Netflix and we see the stories of Maggie Thatcher (played by Gillian Anderson) and also the introduction of Princess Diana (played by Elizabeth Debiki) and it looks once again very good. I will begin getting through this and report back.

November 17th update. I noted in here that in The Crown Season 4, that the role of Diana Spencer would be played by Elizabeth Debiki of Tenet fame and Widows. This was incorrect. Debiki will be playing the older Diana is subsequent seasons. For this season, it is Emma Corrin who plays the teenage Diana. Having watched the first three episodes last night I continue to be impressed by this show. The acting is superb, and those playing each of the known characters do it very effectively. I think the addition of Gillian Anderson as Maggie Thatcher was very good, and this young Corrin playing Diana. What we see with Diana is a very young (16yo) when she first meets Charles, who at the time is dating her older sister. Apparently the story with Diana is Midsummer Night’s dream costume isn’t true, the much of the rest is. I think that they have shown a good balance here, with Diana being shown as very willing to target the Prince and be part of this life. She was 20yo when she married the 32yo Prince. She was noted as being “just a child” and very immature. Still she got more than what she bargained for with the Prince. He was very much still in love with Camilla. Sadly even at 32yo, he was unable to prevent a 6 week separation from Diana upon their engagement, as well as ignoring her for all of those weeks, meanwhile suggesting before he leaves that Diana meet up with Camilla because she “is good company”. Add to that a “parting gift” to Camilla and as Diana had pointed out, there were three people in that marriage. The Queen’s sister Margaret appropriately and ironically questions when the family will stop preventing people from marrying who they love, as they insist on Charles marrying a woman he isn’t in love with. Meanwhile Diana shows signs of an eating disorder early on. The scenes in preparation for the wedding are very telling and apparently sadly very true. The story plays out as a tragedy for what it most undoubtedly is. Diana would likely be alive today if it wasn’t for her being involved with the Prince and the Royal family. Yet she targeted Charles and wanted to live a life that was more “important” as her own family called her “Duch”, short for Duchess. It is must see TV for those who have even a passing interest in the Royal Family, and also Princess Diana. My viewing continues.

February 10th, 2020 – Oscars

This week I managed to get to see the final Best Picture nominated film on the listing for me.  JoJo Rabbit is on the face of it a silly title and the movie poster with the pictures of Hitler and the swastikas with more a vaudeville feel didn’t really make me want to see this.   Alison though had encouraged that this was still worth seeing.   So I ended up taking my youngest son to go see it.  We both enjoyed it.

The premise is a simple one, with a young boy living with his mother (played well by the nominated Scarlett Johansson) in Nazi Germany in the mid 1940s when the war had turned and things weren’t looking as rosy for the Third Reich.   JoJo is a 10yo boy who is a Nazi through and through.   He has a fascination with Hitler, and Hitler comes to him and speaks to him directly in his imagination.    He attends a Hitler Youth Camp, and does other things expected of young boys of his age.   He isn’t popular with few friends.   His mother seems to be quite busy, but he doesn’t seem to know with what.   She is more a free spirit and looks ahead to days when the war is over.    Things happen and I won’t delve further into the plot.   Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson play supporting roles as Nazis, and Rockwell in particular is very good.   Taika Waititi who is the writer, director also plays the flamboyant and moody Hitler.  The find in all of this is the young boy Roman Griffin Davis who is excellent.  He shows the naivete that one can expect from a 10yo, who lives in a very black and white world, filled with winners and losers.  But someone who realizes over time that there are elements of grey that creep in and shape his life.  There are moments that are funny, with a couple good laughs and others that are more serious, as it should be considering the subject matter.   The title although appropriate for me takes away from quality of the movie itself.   Like Ford v Ferrari we both enjoyed this film and would encourage others to see it.  I don’t think it will win the Best Picture but that shouldn’t take away from the enjoyment.

I finished Season 3 of The Crown on Netflix.   There were a couple episodes that were slower for me and not as engaging, however overall I liked this Season a great deal.   When I saw the nominations for Golden Globe for Tobias Menzies, playing Prince Philip, I wondered about it, as I have to admit that I wasn’t overly impressed with his character in Outlander,  for which I had only seen a few episodes.   His episode with his mother was very good, and there is a sequence in the Moon Dust episode where he speaks with priests that I found to be powerful.   He brings some sympathy to a guy who generally comes off as a pompous entitled ass.    I didn’t warm to Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret after the marvelous Vanessa Kirby played her when she was younger.    Olivia Colman too didn’t measure up as well as Claire Foy who was simply excellent.   Yet the young man who played Charles was very good.  Throughout the season you can see how the Windsor family, and principally the Queen Mother played crucial roles in shaping the lives of the younger generation, which is especially true of the young Charles.     The Queen gets somewhat of a pass in manipulating the young future King.   But the foundations are there as you see his relationship not only with Camilla (who was frowned upon by Philip and Queen Mother) but his connection with former King Edward VIII.   How much of this is accurate is unknown by me.  I suspect the Royal family may watch, and I would expect in the least the Harry and Meaghan have seen it to learn something.    It is well acted and well done overall.   Worth the time spent.

Finally I was encouraged to watch Stephen King’s The Outsider on Crave.  It is a psychological thriller and begins with a gruesome murder scene of a young boy.  A local teacher who coaches the baseball team (played by Jason Bateman) is the teacher.   It seems to be a relatively open and shut case, with witnesses and obvious camera footage.   But then cracks appear in the case, and it becomes more and more confusing.  The story moves forward.  I will let it unfold as I have only watched three episodes.   So far I am engaged.   We’ll see where this goes.

For the Oscar awards themselves, I first want to recognize and salute my brother Scott who won the Oscar pool.   In a year that was “off script” in many ways he came through and won this year.   We had 11 participants and Alison came in second, just one point behind Scott.   It’s fun to watch how it unfolds, where in a case like this year, someone rightly guessing which Animated Short wins, decides who wins the pool.   Well done.

History was made last night as Parasite dominated the big awards, with Best Director and Best Film, along with Best Foreign Film.   In total four awards.   What distinguishes this film, which I will note is NOT for everybody, from a quality film in the past couple years like Burning, or Shoplifters.   But never mind, I think it is a good idea that world cinema get acknowledged and that subtitled films do get more love.   Congrats to all those involved in Parasite and bringing it forward.

The acting categories to me were pretty much decided long ago without much debate.   Now after seeing JoJo Rabbit I think that Scarlett Johansson deserved the win, but maybe that comes from me not wanting the portrayal of a blood-sucking family lawyer getting the nod.   I think Laura Dern wins because more people can relate to that and feel that pain.   Brad Pitt was really good, and he made that movie better than it was.   The unfortunate thing for me about last night was having to listen to the Best Actors on stage deliver painful, elongated nonsense.   We heard them at the Golden Globes blather on both Jacquin Phoenix and Renee Zellwegger.   Then with an Oscar in their hands they do the same thing; Phoenix especially who if you note, thanked no one.   No one.    He spouts off about why do humans get to decide what happens on this planet and take baby cows from screaming mothers.   Oh my!!   Stop!   The short answer is, Buddy, top of the food chain.   Full stop.   But if it really is such a concern of yours, do feel free to give away all your millions to buy some cow sanctuaries.   A cow hotel and resort perhaps.   I would make it my personal mission as a member of the Academy to ensure that you never had that platform again.   Some may say, well Marlon Brando was just as eccentric.   He was.   But then he stopped showing up!    Perfect!   Zellwegger who was delivering words, but whose face never moved was at least a little more humble.   Still, I don’t want to listen to you, in a movie I have no interest in seeing.   By all accounts, it’s dreadfully dull.   Other movies like 1917, and JoJo and Ford v Ferrari all got some Oscar love.   In the end, it really wasn’t that strong a year.   No films really stand out, and I think this will be a year that will fade away into the memory banks like 1956 28th Academy Awards (I’ll let you look it up!).   You search back through the years, there is usually one or two standout films that stand the test of time (and don’t always win the awards).   But this year is done, and we can move on.    I’ll be back next year with another contest and hope we have some memorable films then to talk about.

January 15th, 2018

I saw Darkest Hour a couple weeks ago and for me it was an excellent companion piece with Dunkirk.   The film starring the ever-excellent Gary Oldman, outlines the political and war time struggles for the British during May 1940.  Hitler has moved aggressively into Belgium and threatening France.   Former PM Chamberlain sits as a leader of a Party where the opposition demands new leadership.   The obvious first choice to them is Viscount Halifax, which was unknown to me.  The next choice was Winston Churchill.   There are intriguing elements going on where the TV series The Crown Season 1 fits in as well.   The King who is good friends with Halifax isn’t really ready to plunge back into another war.   The US sits on the sidelines, with their own commitments not to enter another war, while France is utterly useless.  The history is well known, but the thoughts, feelings and mood are less so.  This movie’s strength, and the strength of the excellent supporting cast is conveying that feeling about the uncertainty and fear about potentially being invaded.  Oldman earns his Golden Gobe, and likely his Oscar here well.  He didn’t put on the weight for the role, but the make up is never a distraction.   He plays politics well too by publicly supporting the allies in mainland Europe who for the most part turtled when Hitler’s tanks came rolling in.   This is a very good film.  See it knowing about what happens in Dunkirk.  Together they form the strength in a time where fear and trepidation were in abundant supply.   If you wish to add a third excellent film for the time, you can add The Imitation Game.

I finished watching the second season of The Crown.  Claire Foy will be missed in the title role of The Crown. There will be a Season 3, but they will use older actors in it.  She is simply excellent here at showing on her face what goes through her entire being.  The pressures of her position, not only as a sovereign but as a Wife and a Mother.  Matt Smith plays Phillip and he really shines in these ending episodes as well.  For him, the episode about he and Charles attending the same rugged school are outlined, and despite the Queen’s protests to protect her “different” son, Phillip is steadfast.   As a husband, it would be difficult if you had “the Crown” argument thrown in your face every time you had an opinion that didn’t align with hers.   The other excellent episode is that with Jackie Kennedy, where you see some of the dynamics which may or not hold true to life during a Presidential visit to Buckingham Palace.  It also coincides with some political turmoil in Ghana.   Once again, Foy plays the part so well.   Will people who don’t care for the Monarchy like this or have any interest in it?  I can’t say.   Perhaps they don’t care for well acted and written stories about people during challenging times.   From the Abdication of the Crown up until early 1960s, you see many different times.
I have started GLOW, as Alison Brie was nominated in her role.  This is a series about the starting of the cheesey and sexist Lady Wresting.  It’s quite funny, and Brie plays a part of a struggling actor just trying to pay the bills and get work.   It is lighter entertainment.

January 2, 2017 – New Years edition

The title “Lion” will be misleading for this Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture.   Dev Patel is nominated for his work as well.  A couple of times when I was watching I paused and thought about the title and then just let the story envelop me.  Here is a recent story from 1986, and into today which in many ways is a good companion piece to previous Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire.   The story is a simple one.   Young boy in India accompanies older brother for some work, and then gets separated from him at a train station.   He boards another empty train looking for him and becomes lost.   I give away nothing by saying that he eventually is adopted by a couple in Australia and then later to seeks his real family.

The performances are all very good, and notably by the little boy who gets lost.   His eyes are so full of life, and he has a resilience which allows him to overcome many obstacles thrown his way.   His adult persona played Dev Patel is also very good as he struggles with his memories and trying to figure out how to find his past.
This is a story about families, adoption, brothers, and struggle.  Yet again I am reminded of the blessed life and upbringing we have in Canada and the West.   1986 is not ancient history.  The little boy lived in squalor and mother was a labourer who moved rocks.  Rocks.
You care about these people.  All of them, and they take you on a worthwhile journey that is something you will talk about when it is done.  It is another Golden Globe drama nominee that I am pleased to have seen.  Hell or High Water was another.
Have a fabulous 2017 one and all.
P.S> on the home watching front, I have been catching up on Game of Thrones, now in Season 5.  The twists and turns here, and no particular loyalty to keeping characters you like alive makes this fun watching.    Also I have watched 6 episodes of Westworld, which has been good as well.   Well cast with Sir Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood you have robots in an adult amusement park waking up to their reality from the Crichton book made into a film with Yul Brenner long ago.  Christopher Nolan’s brother is involved.  I did thoroughly enjoy The Crown about Queen Elizabeth.