Tonight the Golden Globes will air on NBC at 8 pm. As the awards are often a precursor of the Oscars, they are awfully fun to watch. The attendees sit at dinner tables and copious amounts of alcohol are consumed. This year British comedian Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras, etc.) will reprise his hosting duties. He is unpredictable and merciless in his poking fun at the stars. These awards have long been ridiculed for their lack of expertise in the selection process (presented by the sketchy, mysterious and allegedly sometimes corrupt 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press association) and for the fact that there are far more categories than in the other awards shows and both film and television are honoured. Enjoy! Here are this year’s nominees:
I have been catching up with as many films as possible in my Academy Award countdown, so here is my summary of the films I watched this week:
Brooklyn is a wonderful and touching film about a young Irish immigrant to NYC in the early fifties. Played by the luminous Saoirse Ronan, Eilis falls in love with a very sweet plumber, but when she returns to Ireland for a visit, she must choose between her new life and her old one. It was an absolute delight to watch this lovely story about ordinary people. No explosions or lasers in sight!
Creed is a return to the Rocky franchise. Full disclosure: I hate boxing and I am not a Sylvester Stallone fan. Despite my reservations, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed (illegitimate son of Apollo) who despite his education and relative success in business, is drawn to prove himself as a boxer. Jordan is mesmerizing in the role and Stallone as his trainer is very appealing. Again, no CGI in sight.
Steve Jobs stars Michael Fassbender in the title role and Kate Winslet as his long suffering assistant. Fassbender is magnificent as the thoroughly unlikeable Jobs. He is also heartbreaking when he reveals the source of Jobs’ incredible dysfunction as a human being. Full disclosure: I am not a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s writing. I find him incredibly off-putting in his wordy monologues. However, I was really moved by this film and found it very watchable. Again, no obvious use of special effects.
Trumbo stars Bryan Cranston as the blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo. It’s impossible to take your eyes off Cranston whenever he’s on screen. Helen Mirren plays the venal Hedda Hopper, a gossip columnist who could destroy careers with the stroke of her pen, and she tears into this role with relish. This movie is an inspiring tale of survival against all odds. Trumbo’s long suffering wife and family are a big part of this story and their struggles during Trumbo’s long exile from Hollywood are told in an incredibly touching way. No CGI!
Carol is a very delicate tale of an aspiring photographer (played by Rooney Mara) who develops an intimate relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett). Set in the 1950’s, this is a subtle portrayal of relationships with lots of lingering and aching looks between the two characters. Kyle Chandler plays Blanchett’s estranged husband and his attempts to bully Cate into staying in her marriage in order to maintain custody of their daughter are indicative of the lack of understanding of same sex relationships during that period. Blanchett is transcendent in her performance of a woman struggling to be true to herself. Mara is delightful as a young woman who is just learning who she is. Mara really resembles Audrey Hepburn in this film and her vulnerability is sweet and touching.
Carol is my final non-CGI film, although it is likely that special effects were used in recreating all the 1950’s settings for Brooklyn, Trumbo and Carol, one isn’t left wondering how all the amazing settings were achieved. There has been such a huge trend in Hollywood to create blockbuster franchise films (Avengers. Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Mission Impossible, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men, etc.), that it is a huge relief to celebrate films that tell real stories about real people. These films have a humanity to them that tears at the heartstrings and really engage us on an emotional level.
TV shows available by streaming or On Demand
I caught up with the Lifetime series Unreal this week and binged on all 10 episodes. This scripted series is a savage satire of the reality show genre. It shows how scripted and produced shows like The Bachelor are as it creates a world based on a fictional show called Everlasting where a princely British suitor must choose a bride from amongst 10 contestants. It features an unscrupulous show runner, desperate to succeed segment producers, a TV network that demands ratings above all else, etc. So enjoyable even in its most ludicrous moments. Full disclosure: I watch almost no reality TV (OK, I love So You Think You Can Dance), but I still enjoyed this show.
I also caught up with the Amazon Prime series Red Oaks. This gentle coming of age comedy is set in the mid-eighties and follows the story of a young assistant tennis pro who tries to navigate his way through country club life in New Jersey. This is not ground breaking television in the same way that so many other Amazon Prime series have attempted to be (Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, The Man in the High Castle, etc.) but it is a very affectionate look at the coming of age genre.
Teen Wolf returned to MTV this week for its 6th season. I cannot explain my fascination with all things vampire, zombie and werewolf focussed, but I still find this series hugely entertaining in a monster of the week kind of way. I love the development of the main characters Scott and Stiles, best friends, who strive together to combat all manner of supernatural and human enemies.
The Shannara Chronicles debuted on MTV this week. I was oblivious to the book series that is the source material for this series, but I have to confess that I totally enjoyed this show. It stars a blue eyed blonde surfer dude as its hero (played by the actor Austin Butler as a half-wit and often referred to by that term) and features all manner of supernatural creatures including elves, trolls, furies, demons, etc. Filmed in New Zealand, it is a combination of the Game of Thrones and Twilight series and features several veterans of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings franchises. I cannot explain my fascination with this type of show, but I did get a kick out of it.
The Expanse continued this week on Syfy in the US (Showcase in Canada). This detective series set in space is reminiscent of Blade Runner and the most recent TV series of Battlestar Galactica. The themes of this series include climate change and terrorism as it follows the search for a missing heiress by a detective (Thomas Jane) that intersects with the travails of a renegade spaceship officer (Steven Strait) and the machinations of a ruthless Earth politician (Shoreh Aghdashloo). I have really enjoyed this series so far (I have watched the first 5 episodes) and have found it to be compelling and intriguing viewing.
American Crime Season 2 debuted this week on ABC. Starring the same all star cast who appeared in last season’s series (Regina King, Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, Lily Taylor, etc.), this story begins when shocking photos of a student from an elite private high school are posted on social media; the school’s headmistress tries to maintain the school’s reputation as the victim’s mother reports the rape to the police. Once again, this series deals with issues of race and class, but this year’s setting is within the education system. It promises to be gritty and confrontational TV, not for the faint of heart.
Shades of Blue (starring Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta) debuted on NBC this week. Initially reminiscent of The Shield, which depicted a world of inherent police corruption, Jennifer Lopez is the main character Harlee Santos, a single-mother NYPD officer, who is forced to work in the FBI’s anti-corruption task force, whilst dealing with her own financial problems. I thought the pilot was fairly well done. It remains to be seen whether this network show can avoid cop show cliches (confession, I am not a fan of shows like Blue Bloods which display a hoary sentimentality when it comes to depicting police stories).
Chicago Fire/Chicago Med are my guilty pleasure shows which I watch for only one reason – their hunky male leads. I adore Jesse Spencer (Lt. Dawson on CF) as well as Colin Donnell (Dr. Connor Rhodes on CM and formerly on Arrow and The Affair). I have no other excuse for watching these formulaic and predictable shows. I am ashamed, truly ashamed. For this same reason (namely watching Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen), I caught up with The Blacklist this week. So hokey in its depiction of a conspiracy orchestrated by The Cabal!!
I continue to be amused by The Middle and Modern Family (both on ABC on Wednesdays). I have recorded but not yet watched the latest episode of Supergirl (CBS on Mondays).
For those of you still bingeing on Making a Murderer and wondering what to watch next, here’s a list of some other original Netflix shows you might want to catch up on:
Good luck to those of you who are interested in watching some of this year’s Oscar nominated films. The nominations will be announced at 8:30 am EST on Thursday January 14. Until then, enjoy the Golden Globes!