The Oscars are here….almost!

Well, it’s been a busy time here in Naples the last couple of weeks.  Between dealing with the Polar Vortex which took our temperatures down to a bone chilling 60 degrees or so (laugh now, my northern friends, but it’s no joke for the many snowbirds who did not bring warm clothing), watching helplessly as my golf balls are  carried away by blasts of arctic air, braving the hordes at local art shows, lining up for hot dog lunches at Costco with every other retired person in Naples, deciding which cardigan to wear, etc. it’s been a busy time. This past week, we managed to do a road trip to visit friends on Anna Maria Island (near Bradenton Beach), St. Pete Beach (near Tampa), and Indian Rocks Beach (north of Reddington Beach). Absolutely loved seeing a little more of Florida north of Naples and wonderful to connect with friends down here.

I still haven’t caught up with some of the films I hoped to watch before the Oscars. On tap for this weekend’s streaming are Citizen Four (about Edward Snowden, Best Documentary nomination), Two Days, One Night (French film starring Marion Cotillard, Best Actress nomination), Big Eyes (starring Amy Adams who apparently should have received an Oscar nomination, but didn’t), Force Majeure (a French film about the after effects of an avalanche which apparently should have received a Foreign Film nomination, but didn’t). For those of you who have Netflix, Virunga is an Netflix distributed film about the rangers rising their lives to save gorillas in Congo’s Virunga National Park and it is nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary.

This past week we did catch up with Still Alice, starring Julianne Moore who is nominated for Best Actress.  I loved the book this was based on and thought the movie adaptation was wonderful.  Julianne Moore is absolutely heartbreaking in the role of a woman dealing with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  I can’t imagine that she won’t win (particularly as she has been nominated 4 times and never won before).  The Oscars often seem to right past wrongs in their award decisions.

We also watched Selma, which like The Butler from 2013, gave terrific insight into the history of the Civil Rights movement.  The lack of major nominations for Selma has raised controversy as apparently it’s the first time since 1998 that no actors of colour have been nominated. Apparently, a very pointed controversy has also arisen because of the less than flattering description of LB Johnson as an unenthusiastic supporter of the Civil Rights struggle.  Great film, but perhaps a little bit slow.  Wonderful performances.

On the TV scene, I am continuing to enjoy Empire, the series set behind the scenes at a hip hop recording empire, starring Terrence Howard.  The music is great (Timbaland is the creative consultant) and the storyline is based on King Lear, where the dying impresario (spoiler alert, he has ALS) must divide his kingdom among his three sons who wage war (with actual guns, as they sometimes do within the hip hop/rap recording community) with each other to emerge as the rightful heir.

Empire is actually reminiscent of Nashville (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery within the TV world) which I have continued to watch despite the enjoyably soapy turns its plot has taken.  Spoiler alert, Deacon has liver cancer and hasn’t told Rayna or his daughter.  OMG!

Still loving Grantchester (seen Sunday nights at 10 on PBS Masterpiece Mystery) about a hunky Anglican vicar with a knack for solving crimes; finished watching Season 1 of Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon Prime and I absolutely loved it, starring Gael Garcia Bernal as the maestro of a fictional NYC Symphony Orchestra with Malcolm Macdowell and Bernadette Peters as supporting players.  Very funny and full of wonderful symphonic music; Justified and The Americans continue to be worth watching (both seen in the US on FX).  Allegiance is the cheeky NBC series which has an awfully similar plot point to The Americans with sleeper cell Soviet spies in present day NYC responsible for turning their FBI analyst son into a double agent; Chicago Fire had some particularly maudlin episodes the past week or two, but you have to love the hunky firemen; Sleepy Hollow continues to delight with its fish out of water story as the Ichabod Crane character adjusts to 2015 society after having slept since the War of Independence – much fun is had regarding his reactions to cell phones, skinny pants, learning to drive a car, texting, etc.  He’s adorable as played by the dreamy Tom Mison;  I’ve been trying to keep up with Gotham (about the young Batman and his advisor Detective Gordon) as they continue to introduce the young versions of iconic characters from the Batman comics; still loving The Middle on ABC which has more heart than any other show on TV as it depicts a family struggling to make a living and raise their kids in incredibly difficult conditions, yet manages to make me laugh despite their troubles.

I have lost touch with some of the shows that are a little harder to find here in the US because we haven’t subscribed to particular cable channels:  for example, Banshee, which I love for the madness of its chaotically violent world; Shameless, which I love for the madness of its chaotically dysfunctional family; Black Sail, which I love for the madness of its completely insane world of pirates and literal cut-throats, etc.

I hope those of you who are planning to watch the Oscars enjoy yourselves thoroughly!!  This year’s host, Neil Patrick Harris, has done a wonderful job hosting the last few Tony Award shows, starred in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway and has been the longtime star of How I Met Your Mother (which I have actually never watched).  I’m rooting for him to make the show as entertaining as possible. Enjoy yourselves whatever you choose to do on Sunday evening. I know many of you will be happily watching The Walking Dead (which I, of course will be recording), Downton Abbey, which I absolutely loved, etc.  To each, his or her own.  Vive la difference!!  Some of you may even be actually watching a film, reading books or listening to music and that’s fine too.

Academy Award Countdown Part 2 + Catching up with new and returning shows

Writing to you from beautiful Naples, Fl.  Although the sunshine and warm temperatures have made it very difficult to concentrate on TV and movie watching, I have been giving it my best effort.  Here are some of the Oscar nominated films I’ve caught up with recently:

The Imitation Game stars the wonderful yet bloodless Benedict Cumberbatch as the real life Alan Turing who broke the Enigma code during WW2 and who paid a tragic price for his homosexuality.
Birdman is a wonderful fantasy of the behind the scenes world of NY theatre. Both Michael Keaton and Edward Norton are wonderfully charismatic in this.
American Sniper is a film directed by Clint Eastwood that celebrates the life of the real life US sniper Chris Kyle who died trying to help veterans with PTSD. I found this film to be a little morally ambiguous, but Bradley Cooper gained 40 pound to play a burly guy. His neck almost totally disappears, he becomes almost unattractive (despite his blue eyes) and this earned him an Oscar nom.
The Theory of Everything is a heartwarmng film about Stephen Hawking and stars Eddie Redmayne as a wonderfully likable Hawking. Felicity Jones is also very engaging as his wife.
Wild is a film about a woman trying to redeem herself by walking a 1000 miles in the US wilderness. Somehow, I didn’t really connect with this film as I couldn’t see past the glamorous Reese Witherspoon pretending to be a down on her luck gal.  She’s way too well known as an actress to be believable in this role. Now, if my beautiful niece Sarah (who actually walked 900 k on the Camino de Santiago in Spain this fall had played the role, that would have been believable!).
Gemma Bovary is a peculiar French film that I recently watched on an airplane starring the beautiful Gemma Arterton as a real-life modern incarnation of Emma Bovary.(I watched it even though it’s not actually nominated for any Oscars, as the pickings were pretty slim on Air Canada)
Foxcatcher is a very dark film about the real-life murder of a professional wrestling coach by the real-life John E. DuPont played by Steve Carrell, who also bulked up by many pounds, lost his neck, became extremely unattractive and wore a huge prosthetic nose which earned him an Oscar nom.

Trying to catch up on new shows:

So far I have been able to watch the first 8 episodes of Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon Prime. I love this wonderful show about the behind the scenes life of a fictional NYC symphony orchestra complete with scheming fundraisers, prima donna conductors, aspiring musicians and the people who love them.
I have now seen the first 4 episodes of Grantchester on PBS Masterpiece Mystery. I love this nostalgic show set in early 50’s rural Cambridgeshire about a handsome young Anglican priest who has a knack for solving crimes. Apparently this type of British mystery is known as a cozy. There’s chintz everywhere, everyone is always drinking tea or whiskey, and the 50’s fashions and makeup are sublime.

Trying to catch up with Justified, The AmericansGotham, Grimm, Red Band Society, Chicago Fire, Forever, Person of Interest, Sleepy Hollow, Modern Family, The Middle, Fresh off the Boat... It may be time to consider letting some of these shows go by the wayside. A girl has to golf and go to exercise class as well as watch TV.

Yesterday was Sunday again! After a month of no TV watching, I may have gained a little perspective on the massive amount of episodic TV I’ve been watching in the last 6 months. I’m also back in the USA where even though I have a PVR here, the on demand functions of our local cable company are vastly superior to Rogers, with all programs being available within 24 hrs of airing.

I was able to watch my favourite Sunday morning TV show, CBS Sunday Morning, a soothing compendium of segments on arts, culture and human interest stories. Sunday night CBS aired the Grammy Awards and BBC America showed The Bafta Awards (their Oscars). Stephen Fry hosted and was delightfully wry. It was wonderful to see Boyhood showered with awards. The young man who played the lead referred to the film’s humanity. I was so relieved to see Interstellar relegated to technical awards as it so lacked in humanity and relatable situations. The Theory of Everything also took many of the top awards and Redmayne gave a wonderful acceptance speech for Best Actor thanking his 3 families: his parents, his film family and the Hawking family.

Better Call Saul debuts this week with two episodes. This is the prequel to Breaking Bad focussed on the ne’er do well lawyer, Saul and his life before he meets Walter White and Breaking Bad begins.

Finally got around to watching NBC’s new show Allegiance which has received such unfavourable comparisons to The Americans. I loved this very complex show which features two retired Russian agents living in present day NYC who are ordered to turn their CIA analyst son into a double agent. Absolutely loved it! Hope Davis stars and she’s wonderful as the Russian mom.

I hope all my friends in Ontario are managing to stay warm and snug. We actually had a spectacular rainy day here today with what seemed almost a tropical fierceness to it.  Otherwise it has been pretty balmy here. Looking forward to my first golf game tomorrow since Dec.  Until next time….