Although it’s been difficult to catch up with some of the foreign film and documentary categories, I have been busy catching up with the best film nominees for the Oscars. Tonight the Critics’ Choice awards will air on A&E, but last week the Golden Globes aired. Controversial for their lack of diversity (no awards for black actors, actresses, filmmakers, etc.) the Globes are often a predictor of Oscar success.
Here’s a list of all the Oscar nominees:
The Danish Girl, which stars Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander, tells the story of one of the first transsexuals to undergo gender reassignment surgery. The story is sad and a little long and slow, but both Redmayne and Vikander give beautiful touching performances. Redmayne, who won the Oscar for last year’s performance in The Theory of Everything, is nominated for his leading role and Vikander is nominated for Supporting Actress.
The Revenant starring Leo DeCaprio and Tom Hardy is almost the direct opposite of The Danish Girl. It is beautifully photographed as it tells the story of a fur trapper in 1820’s US who is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by his fellow hunters. Filled with scenes of native people fighting for their own survival and our trapper hero fighting for his life against the elements, the film is incredibly powerful in its depiction of how brutal frontier life was. DiCaprio won a Golden Globe for his performance and he is a front runner for the Oscars.
Concussion stars Will Smith as an Nigerian immigrant doctor who fearlessly fights to prove that professional football causes devastating brain injuries. Although the film bogs down a little in the last 30 minutes, Smith gives a terrific performance which totally convinced me that he was a Nigerian doctor. He’s come a long way from his Fresh Prince days. He was not nominated for his performance which has caused some controversy. I enjoyed this film far more than I had anticipated and also enjoyed seeing Alec Baldwin in a supporting role as a doctor who assists Smith in his efforts.
Black Mass, which was released in the fall, was egregiously overlooked for award nominations. Johnny Depp plays Boston career criminal Whitey Bulger and he is completely convincing as a stone cold killer. His performance is compelling and I was sad to see that he wasn’t nominated in this complicated story of Bulger’s rise and fall.
Inside Out is a Disney Pixar film which tells the story of a young girl whose family moves from the Midwest to San Francisco. The story is told from the point of view of the girl’s emotions. I have to admit that I personally found this film to be a cure for insomnia and had one of the best afternoon naps ever while watching it, but my husband who managed to stay awake throughout found it entertaining and compassionate. I don’t know if I would take a young child to this film as I thought its very complex concepts like memory, subconscious, dreams and imagination were daunting enough for adults to appreciate. I thought this film was incredibly ambitious and sophisticated for an American animated effort. Pixar has come a long way from Cars (although I loved the Toy Story films, Ratatouille, Up, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Brave, and Wall-E). Those were all films that children and adults could enjoy together. I’m not so sure if I know any children sophisticated enough for Inside Out.
For those of you who are wondering when your favourite shows will return from hiatus in 2016 (e.g. Scandal, Empire, Suits, etc.) and when new shows will appear, here’s a summary from Cinemablend:
Debuting tonight is Angie Tribeca on TBS at 9 which is a comedy from Steve Carrell which looks like a parody of female-led cop shows like Shades of Blue. Billions also premieres tonight on Showtime in the US and it stars Damian Lewis (Homeland and The Forsyte Saga) as a billionaire hedge fund king and Paul Giammati (Sideways and 12 Years a Slave) as the US Attorney who tries to bring Lewis down. Also tomorrow, watch for War and Peace which will air on A&E, Lifetime and History Channel in the US. Starring Paul Dano (Love and Mercy), Lily James (Downton Abbey and Cinderella) and James Norton (Happy Valley and Grantchester), this 6 part series features yummy period costumes and sumptuous ball scenes. I’m in!!
The Expanse (on Syfy in the US) continues to intrigue with its 3 storylines in space. I have been a Thomas Jane fan for ages and think his work as a hardboiled gumshoe in this series is terrific. Also, his haircut is amazing!!
Teen Wolf (on MTV) continues into its 6th season (hey, aren’t those kids getting a little old for high school). It’s a monsterfest featuring attractive 20-somethings playing high school kids, but I love it anyway.
Izombie (on the CW) had tremendous fun in last week’s episode as our leading zombie lady consulted on a murder on a teen oriented zombie TV series. Many zombie jokes were made. Delightful!
Colony debuted this week (on USA) and stars Josh Holloway (from Lost) as a reluctant collaborator in an alien takeover of LA. Somewhat reminiscent of The Man in the High Castle in its images of a world gone mad, the show depicts an LA that has been walled off (take note Mr. Trump) and where cars are forbidden so that everyone rides bicycles. I loved the pilot episode and look forward to seeing where this series takes us.
Elementary (on CBS) is back. I so enjoy Jonny Lee Miller as a contemporary Sherlock Holmes. I honestly don’t care who commits the murders as for me it’s always about Holmes solving the crime in his very idiosyncratic way. Lucy Liu plays his partner Joan Watson and their relationship is the most entertaining part of the story.
London Spy (BBC America) is a great BBC 5-episode miniseries starting Ben Whishaw (Spectre), Jim Broadbent (Brooklyn and hundreds of other credits) and Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Dexter and hundreds of other credits). Dark and subtle, it is a murder mystery set within the framework of a romance between two people from very different worlds. Danny is a participant in the London world of nightclubs and recreational drugs while Alex is from the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service. Very nuanced and layered, it is told within 5 episodes, and this miniseries requires patience and concentration as we follow Danny’s efforts to solve Alex’s murder.
Jekyll and Hyde (10 episode miniseries on CBC from ITV in Britain) is an almost total contrast to London Spy. Picking up on the story of Jekyll’s grandson and set in the 1930’s it’s almost a joyride through all the tropes of the Jekyll and Hyde story as we follow gentle Dr. Jekyll’s journey from India to England as her tries to find a cure for his “condition”. Monsters abound!!
Netflix (Only in Canada!)
The Last Kingdom 9 episode miniseries is listed as a Netflix Original. It aired here in the US on BBC America last autumn and I absolutely loved it. It is set in 872 when the separate kingdoms of England were fighting the invading Danes. It tells the story of King Alfred’s efforts to unify the English kingdoms into one country. The central character is our hero, Uhtred. Born the son of a Saxon nobleman, he is captured by the Danes and raised as one of their own. Forced to choose between the country of his birth and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are tested. What is he? Saxon or Dane? On a quest to reclaim his birthright, Uhtred must tread a dangerous path between both sides if he is to play his part in the birth of a new nation and ultimately, recapture his ancestral lands.
For those of you wondering when Netflix will debut more original programming in 2016, here’s a quick reference:
I finally made it to the Fifth Avenue Playhouse, home of community theatre here for The Naples Players. I saw Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz and thoroughly enjoyed it. Set in Palm Springs, California in 2004, it is a play that is fierce, funny and compassionate. It references the invasion of Iraq and the political divide that separates Lyman and Polly Wyeth from their two children, Brooke and Trip. Brooke’s memoir, which threatens to unearth a long buried, controversial chapter from the family’s past shines a spotlight on the role of the writer and where her responsibility lies. Great performances from a mixed cast of professional and amateur actors. A beautiful little theatre with great sight lines. Who can ask for anything more?
The rest of the shows I caught this week are my usual comfort viewing: The Black List and Shades of Blue (both NBC female-led crime series); The Good Wife (my favourite Network TV Show on CBS; Modern Family and The Middle (both ABC sitcoms that make me laugh); Bill Maher returned to his Friday night HBO series this week and featured Al Gore and concentrated on the Republican leadership race; Saturday Night Live (on NBC) featured Adam Driver who displayed his singing skills in a sketch based on Aladdin as well as playing off his Tylo Ren character in an Undercover Boss sketch. As I write this, I have just finished watching another great instalment of CBS Sunday Morning (featuring a piece on Leslie Caron one of my favourite musical leading ladies who looks amazing for a lady in her eighties).
I am now watching President Obama’s press conference on CNN about the release of American prisoners who had been held captive in Iran, while the crawl along the bottom of the screen details the deaths of two mobile home park residents from last night’s tornadoes in Manatee County near Sarasota, Fl (about 100 miles north of us in Naples). It was a very dark and stormy night here in Naples last night and our power flickered very briefly. Although we only have two fallen trees on our property, these are scary times when tornadoes occur in southwest Florida due to El Nino for the second time within a matter of days.
Don’t forget to watch the Critics’ Choice awards tonight (A&E at 8) and for goodness sake, go see some of the movies before the Oscars. Just over a month left until the big broadcast on Feb. 28!!