After spending much of the previous two weeks catching up on my Nordic Noir mysteries, I have finally gotten around to watching a wonderful French TV series about show business that is a pure delight and a wonderful preparation for awards season. I’ve also made it out to some movies on the big screen and some of my regular TV series are returning for the rest of their season. I totally enjoyed the Critics Choice awards on the CW, and was delighted to see The Shape of Water honoured as best film and Guillermo Del Toro honoured as best director. Here are some recommendations:
On the Big Screen
Darkest Hour During the early days of WWII, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds. Gary Oldman turns in the performance of a lifetime as Churchill (already handily winning several major awards). If you’ve seen Christopher Nolan’s wonderful Dunkirk, this will give you the other side of that story. Another wonderful 2016 film about this same era is the British film Their Finest (available on Netflix) starring Bill Nighy, Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin and Richard E. Grant. This film documents the British war effort through the production of propaganda films and has powerful scenes of London during the Blitz.
The Post depicts the struggle to reveal a cover-up that spanned four US Presidents by publishing the Pentagon Papers that were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. This struggle pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher (Meryl Streep as Kay Graham) and a hard-driving editor (Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee) to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government. This is heartwarming and inspiring filmmaking about being on the right side of history. Pure Spielberg as he depicts this battle. If you haven’t yet seen the wonderful HBO biography Spielberg, you can find it on demand. Those who really enjoyed the old fashioned principled storytelling of Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies will love this film.
The Brand New Testament is a 2015 very black comedy from Belgium that posits that God is alive and living in Brussels with his daughter. Surreal and very weird! The daughter goes on a search to recruit 6 new apostles, one of whom is Catherine Deneuve who finds true love with a gorilla. I honestly didn’t know what to make of this very odd film, but a good friend recommended it, so I persevered. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea.
Detroit is a 2017 film from director Kathryn Bigelow. It is a searing look at the Detroit riots of 1967. Very timely story of police violence within the black community. Very hard to watch.
American Vandal is a supremely silly true crime parody from the Funny or Die team that explores the aftermath of a costly high school prank that left 27 faculty cars vandalized with enormous penis paintings. There are actually 9 episodes in this series, but I got the idea after 1 episode. Very clever satire of the true crime genre.
Call My Agent Seasons 1 & 2 This 12-episode miniseries is a wonderful look at movie star agents in Paris who go about their lives and work. They have to figure out how to carry on with the agency after the passing of their fearless leader. Each episode features real French stars playing tongue-in-cheek versions of themselves. I came to love this series which has beautiful photography of Paris. It is also very timely in view of the Time’s Up movement and the French reaction to it that was recently in the news as many French actresses (notably including Catherine Deneuve) voiced their concern that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of puritanism. The French have always had a live and let live attitude to sex and in this series, many relationships seem to be based on seduction. The final episode with Juliette Binoche as the head of the Cannes film festival jury who figures out how to deal with a sexually aggressive sponsor is a total delight. Binoche uses her sexuality to intimidate this very powerful man. So French!!!
Victoria returns tonight!! British accents and period costumes. How divine!!
Divorce with Sarah Jessica Parker returns for its second season. I am a huge fan of Thomas Hayden Church, so I will be watching.
Crashing returns for its second season tonight. I actually really enjoyed this look into the lives of struggling stand up comics.
Cardinal Season 2 Yay – it’s Canadian! Although it is reminiscent of Nordic Noir (chilly scenes of winter are actually filmed in North Ontario). I loved Season 1 which dealt with the mystery of a dead teenager, and a series of subsequent murders. Season 2 starts with a strange case of a young woman with a gunshot wound to the head. American viewers will recognize Billy Campbell as Detective John Cardinal.
Mary Kills People Season 2 Yay- it’s also Canadian! I loved Season 1. Single mother Mary Harris is an ER doctor by day, but by night she and her partner, a former plastic surgeon, moonlight as underground angels of death who help terminally ill patients slip away on their own terms. In Season 2, the storyline takes a very different direction when Mary is blackmailed into committing a murder by a wife who is very determined to have her husband killed. Caroline Dhavernas is wonderful as Mary Harris and Rachelle Lefevre plays a terrific villain in this one.
Damnation I had totally lost track of this epic story of labour struggles in the Depression era, but was delighted to find that I could catch up on all 10 episodes On Demand here in Florida. A terrific tale of two brothers on opposite sides of the labour struggle.
This is Us So maudlin. Still waiting to find out how the Dad dies.
Chicago Fire Such a guilty pleasure procedural. Extreme melodrama in every episode.
The Good Doctor I love this show about a young doctor who is trying to overcome his autism in order to practise medicine. Freddie Highmore is wonderful as Dr. Shaun Murphy.
9-1-1 Surprisingly good show about Emergency Services personnel and the wide range of cases they deal with. Incredible cast includes Peter Krause, Connie Britton and Angela Bassett.
The X-Files Not loving this one any more. I took 3 days to finish watching the last episode. Slow and boring. Way too much conspiracy for me.
FX – New Series Alert!!!
American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace This will be the second series of the Ryan Murphy production, following The People v. O.J. Simpson. The wonderful cast includes Edgar Ramirez, Darren Criss, Ricky Martin, and Penelope Cruz. I will be watching this week when it debuts on FX. Episode 1 is already available On Demand.
Moments of Zen
I am currently watching CBS Sunday Morning. The panel with Oprah Winfrey addresses the question of Time’s Up and where this movement is going. Colbert, Noah, Seth Meyers, et al are all having a field day with the endless tweets coming from the Trumpocracy. I am a little Michael Wolfed (Fire and Fury) out and have just started to read excerpts from David Frum’s book (Trumpocracy). Real Time with Bill Maher will return to HBO this Friday January 19. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee will return to TBS/Comedy Channel in Canada on January 17.
George and I had the great pleasure of brunching out this morning (best blintzes I have ever had) followed by a morning on 3rd Street in Naples’ historic downtown district watching adorable pups participate in a trade show/parade for dogs. Never before, have I seen so many dogs parading by in costume and in nicer strollers than I ever had for my children. So much fun!! This week we are celebrating our friends’ wedding anniversary at a new neighbourhood restaurant and also taking in a performance of Gershwin’s An American in Paris at the Artis Naples centre. The week will include all the regular activities (Mahjong, Golf, Bocce, etc.) Enjoy every moment of your week, wherever you are! Love, strength and hope to my very dear friends who are coping with health challenges. Hugs always.