I have to admit that this last week has been a wonderful week of indulging in my favourite things. Films, theatre and, of course, tv. I almost caught up with a couple of weeks of recorded shows and also got to see three films I was very interested in as well as a couple of musicals at the Stratford Theatre Festival. In addition, we had company up to Thornbury for the weekend, and got to celebrate a very important anniversary with some longtime friends. Here’s how my week went:
On the Big Screen
Cafe Society – the most enjoyable Woody Allen film I have seen in a long time. Despite the fact that the director has become infamous for his unprincipled personal life, he manages to create a wistful ode to Hollywood’s golden days in this affectionate prequel to Manhattan. Jesse Eisenberg is perfect as the lead character and Kristen Stewart is luminous as the girl he falls in love with. Great performances from all the supporting players including Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Steve Carell, Corey Stoll, Ken Stott, and Jeanie Berlin.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople – A wonderful coming of age/road movie about the bond that develops between an orphan and the curmudgeon who accompanies him on a quest that takes them into the New Zealand bush country. Sam Neill is wonderful as Hector and the young lead actor playing Ricky is Julian Dennison who is tremendously sympathetic as a very disadvantaged child with hilarious fantasies of thug life. This film is in turns very funny and tremendously touching.
Florence Foster Jenkins – A heart warming story of a 1940’s NYC philanthropist whose adoring friends encourage her delusional singing ambitions. Meryl Streep plays the lead character and Hugh Grant is her enabling husband/manager. Both are wonderful, but it’s Simon Helberg who steals the film as Florence’s shy accompanist. Apparently he’s a regular on Big Bang Theory, a show which I have never watched. My only discomfort with this film is that it subjects Florence to ridicule and I always avoid the opening episodes of reality talent competitions when delusional contestants with no apparent talent audition and face savage criticism and ridicule. The character of Florence is portrayed with real affection by Meryl Streep who paints a picture of a woman who really can’t hear herself the way the rest of the world hears her.
Loved the revival of Marvin Hamlisch’s A Chorus Line. It’s been about 40 years since I last saw this show and it’s a great production with wonderful voices and dancers. Still very moving as it tells the stories of Broadway hopefuls and what drives them to keep struggling to succeed in a business full of heartbreak and rejection. The theme song “What I did for Love” still pulls at the heartstrings as it expresses why these dancers keep striving.
A Little Night Music is a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 award winning musical adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer’s Night. I so wanted to be charmed by this show, but I have to confess that I found it mechanical and contrived. Maybe two plays in one day is too much? I did enjoy “Send in the Clowns” which is the one song that emerged as a real hit from this musical. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of Sondheim, and sometimes his songs sound an awful lot like the actors are making them up as they go along. I did also enjoy “The Miller’s Son”, sung by a supporting player hitherto known for her dramatic ability, Sara Farb. I was a bit disappointed to see the fabulous Cynthia Dale wasted in a secondary role as the pathetic Charlotte who tries to win her straying husband back from the leading character Desiree. It took me a long time to warm to Yanna Mackintosh as Desiree, but I did enjoy Rosemary Dunsmore as the wry matriarch, Mme Armfeldt.
On the home screen
For those of you who have caught up with Stranger Things, you might enjoy this video which shows side by side views of moments from Stranger Things and the various films which influenced the director. If you haven’t watched this series yet, I encourage you to have a look. It’s a wonderful look at childhood and the monsters that children have to face. When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back. You’ve never seen anything quite like this series. It is unique and engrossing. Be prepared to stay up late if you start watching it as you will want to watch episode after episode.
My regular shows
I am still hanging in with Mr. Robot, but I do find its vaguely hallucinogenic quality a little confusing. This is definitely not a show for everyone and it is a one screen experience. Do not check your email or start IMDBing actors or you will miss something critical.
I love Animal Kingdom, and still hang in with Suits (although I am finding it a little tedious so far this season as I am not fond of prison sagas).
Tyrant has taken a turn for the ludicrous this season (Arab Spring light) and I am longing for most of the major characters to be taken out by a suicide bomber which will put them out of their misery. Somehow, I can’t look away, but I very much doubt that this series will have another season as this one has been painful to watch.
I do love the two summer series American Gothic and Brain Dead. I enjoy their black humour.
Almost too many shows to count: Ray Donovan; The Night of; You, me, her; Vice Principals; Outcast; Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
Inspector Lewis continues to intrigue me; The Tunnel moves towards its season finale. I’ve enjoyed the French/English culture wars on this show and have really liked the interplay between Stephen Dillane and Clemence Poesy, the two leads.
The Choir hosted by Gareth Malone is an inspiring and touching look at various organizations around England. Malone coaches employees to enter a choral competition and in the process, teams are built and individuals gain incredible self confidence.
Girls rule on the Canadian Olympic team!!! Patiently waiting for my Danish show Follow the Money and Baroness von Sketch to resume.
That’s all for now. It’s Sunday night and I am waiting for my shows to begin!! Have a wonderful week and enjoy this beautiful summer weather.