We will be setting off for our first river cruise up the Rhone from Marseille to Lyon this Friday, but before that I will bring you up to date on my theatre, film and TV recommendations:
Live at Stratford
Coriolanus (Shakespeare, 5 Acts, 3 h., includes 20 min intermission) A gorgeously cinematic production with incredible stage and sound effects. Using projected imagery, live video, sliding diorama-like boxes and panels that converge and dilate in front of the action, he creates stage equivalents of pans and tracking shots, irises, close-ups and letterbox effects.The story of a hero who is brought down by his own arrogance and refusal to pander to the needs of the populace.The always controversial director Robert Lepage breathes new life into this tragic history that was written over 400 years ago. Full disclasure: I managed to stay awake through the whole thing despite my usual reluctance to see anything actually written by Shakespeare at the Stratford Festival!
TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) Mini reviews
If Beale Street could Talk ( 1 h 57 min) This powerful film from Barry Jenkins (director of Moonlight) is about injustice towards African Americans told within the context of a love story. Truthfully, I found the film a bit long and slow. There are ongoing shifts in time. Regina King is a standout for her performance as a mother who will not shirk from fighting for her family. A touching story told at a very elegiac pace.
Vox Lux (1 h 50 min) This batshit crazy film is about a pop star who experienced a school shooting as a teenager who becomes a Lady Gaga type performer, sacrificing her innocence and humanity in the process. The audience clapped at the end out of sheer relief that the agony of watching it was over. Full disclosure: this was my afternoon film and I had a very hard time keeping my eyes open so I may have missed the good cohesive bits. All I woke up for were the insane musical numbers.
First Man (2h13min) Hollywood epic about the space race that culminated in Neil Armstrong’s moon walk. Amazing performances by a large ensemble cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Clare Foy, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, Patrick Fugit and many others. Breathtaking and mesmerizing. To top it off, the director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, LaLaLand) and the lead actors all appeared at the end of the film for a Q&A. Truly our lucky day!
Green Book (2 h 10 min) Stars Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini. What a pleasure to watch this delightful film directed by Pete Farelly. A period piece from the early ‘ 60’s, it tells the story of a Bronx based Italian American who is hired to drive a distinguished black pianist on a tour of the southern states. Very touching as these two disparate characters come to understand and appreciate each other. Great comic performances from the leads. Wonderful music score.
The Kindergarten Teacher (2 h 24 min) Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Maggie Gylenhaal. A strange suspenseful tale of obsession as a kindergarten teacher becomes convinced that one of her students is a gifted poet. A little too long and actually painful to watch the last third of the film.
The Front Runner (2 h 6 min) Stars Hugh Jackman and Vera Farmiga. The story of Democratic Presidential candidate Gary Hart’s fall from grace after an extramarital affair is exposed. Full disclosure: this was my afternoon film and I had a very hard time staying awake. I found the film very lacklustre and was disappointed by the less than compelling portrait painted of Gary Hart. Even Hugh Jackman’s natural charisma couldn’t shine through in this very dull film.
Active Measures (2018, documentary, 1 h 49 min) Directed by Jack Bryan, this doc gives you incredible footage of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his attacks on the 2016 American Presidential Election in collaboration with the Trump Campaign. If you found Ozark educational on the subject of money laundering, you will continue your education as the Russian oligarchs use Trump’s real estate empire as a way of cleaning their money. All your favourites from the Trump Swamp are featured including Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Steve Bannon, Jvanka, etc.
Harrow (Australian Miniseries, 10 episodes) Stars Ioan Gruffudd as a forensic pathologist. Great fun to watch a weekly mystery entwined with on ongoing murder investigation into Harrow’s ex-wife’s husband’s disappearance and murder.
Forever (2018, 8 episodes) Hilarious show stars Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph as a suburban couple whose life goes disastrously off course when they alter their vacation plans.
The Land of Steady Habits (2018, 1 h 38 min) Ben Mendelson stars as a man whose midlife crisis triggers a series of unfortunate events in his Connecticut neighbourhood.
Atypical (Season 2, 8 episodes) Sweet ongoing story of a family coping with the struggles of their Asperger’s syndrome son to find a girlfriend.
Mayans M.C. (2018, 10 episodes) Sequel to Sons of Anarchy concentrating on a Hispanic motorcycle club in Southern California with strong ties to Mexican cartels.
You Are Here: A Come from Away Story (2018, 1 h)What a wonderful behind the scenes documentary this is as it shows the real people behind the story of the moving Broadway musical when 7000 travellers were stranded in Gander, NfLd on 9/11. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe:
Kidding (2018, 10 episodes) Stars Jim Carrey, Catherine Keener, Frank Langella. Jim Carrey plays a Mr. Rogers type children’s TV entertainer trying to cope with the loss of a child and the dissolution of his marriage.
Outcast (2018, 10 episodes) This batshit crazy show isn’t done yet with its strange tale of demonic possession.
Hemingway’s Legend lives on!
I have been on a bit of a Hemingway tear this week as one of my book groups is reading Love and Ruin by Paula McLain, the story of Martha Gellhorn and her relationship with Ernest Hemingway. Frankly I found the book a long and tedious read as it focuses on two obsessive personalities who have a disastrous marriage that almost destroys both of them. I wanted to learn a little more about both writers, so naturally I turned to a couple of recent bio. flicks:
Hemingway and Gellhorn (HBO Original 2012, available on demand, 2h 35 min) Ouch! Was this film starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen ever long and painful to watch. No chemistry between the two leads and ludicrous dialogue. Both characters come off as ridiculous stereotypes madly loving and hating each other as they pursue careers as war correspondents between scenes of passionate lovemaking. Just indescribably awful.
Papa: Hemingway in Cuba (Netflix 2015, 1h 59 min)Also a little painful to watch. Very low budget starring Giovanni Ribisi as a young writer whom Hemingway mentors at the end of his life and career.
Defending Jacob novel by William Landay. There are two types of suspense that run through Defending Jacob, a courtroom drama that hinges on the murder of a high school boy. The first comes from trying to guess who killed him. The second comes from wondering whether this book’s author, William Landay, a former district attorney with two well-received novels behind him, will become the next Scott Turow. Great listen for us, as we tried to predict where this very surprising novel would turn next.
Better Call Saul (Season 4, 10 episodes) Great prequel to Breaking Bad.
Lodge 49 (10 episodes) Whimsical series about a surfer dude who finds himself and a purpose in life when he joins a strange fraternal lodge full of quirky characters.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (2018, 8 episodes) After a nuclear attack, a select few must survive in a bunker dubbed Outpost Three ruled by a tyrannical matriarch. Great cast includes Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Kathy Bates, etc. Totally batshit crazy!! From Ryan Murphy.
The Sinner (2018, Season 2, 8 episodes) Great mystery series about why ordinary people commit brutal crimes. Stars Bill Pullman, Carrie Coon, Tracy Letts.
Mr. Mercedes (2018, Season 2, 10 episodes) Great suspense series that continues the story of a psychopath who drove his car into a crowd of people. Great cast includes Harry Treadaway, Holland Taylor, Brendan Gleeson, Jack Huston, Nancy Travis.
Most of my faves are back from hiatus: Colbert, Noah, Maher, Bee, Jeffries, Oliver. I find their comic take on daily events to be very therapeutic.
Don’t forget to watch the Emmy Awards when they air Monday night at 8 pm on NBC. I probably won’t be watching much TV or seeing many movies in the next while, but I do hope to take in a few plays in London where we will spend the last 4 days of our trip. The leaves are turning here and I anticipate that our trip back to Toronto tomorrow will feature some beautiful colour. Enjoy your week wherever you are! Special hugs to our friends in the US who are experiencing Tropical Storm Florence and to our friends dealing with medical challenges.