Fences was actually written by August Wilson and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 when it debuted on Broadway. It was revived on Broadway in 2010 and Denzel Washington and Viola Davis starred in that production. Note to self: more proofreading required.
Oh the pressure – trying to see all the Oscar nominated films, watching enough TV to contribute to my own blog – not to mention Pickleball, Mahjong, Fitness Classes, Book Club, Golf, Girlfriends of Treviso Bay (our Newcomers Club), dining out, dining in, etc. These are truly problems I am blessed to have. And now for some recommendations:
On the Big Screen
As it is rainy and miserable here in Naples, I at last have the perfect opportunity to catch up with Fences today, the Denzel Washington-directed film of the play by Langston Hughes which is nominated for multiple Oscars. Looking forward to it!! Review to follow.
The Screen Actors Guild Awards show airs tonight at 8 on TBS in the US and on Global in Canada. As the show focuses only on acting awards, it’s incredibly entertaining and the stars usually show up en masse. Honouring both Film and TV, many of the awards are often precursors of the Oscars. Lily Tomlin is honoured with the Life Achievement Award.
Sunday Night Madness
In addition to the above awards show, there is a plethora of great TV airing on Sunday nights:
Here in Naples, the Sunday lineup begins at 7 with the delightful Father Brown British mystery series (Season 4 repeats); at 8 we have Mercy Street, PBS’s first original production for the Masterpiece series – set during the Civil War, it follows the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposing sides – New England abolitionist Mary Phoney and Confederate supporter Emma Green; finally at 9 pm Victoria, the story of a young Queen Victoria airs – British costume drama in all its glory.
Black Sails, pirate show par excellence starring Toby Stephens (son of Maggie Smith) returns for its final season at 9 tonight. The prequel to Treasure Island, we get to see how Long John Silver evolved. Aargh!
Homeland and The Affair both continue tonight. Homeland‘s intrigue is continuing to build and last week’s The Affair ended with a cliffhanger involving Noah’s view of reality.
Riverdale debuted last Thursday and I loved it. Archie Andrews is far sexier than I ever imagined him to be as are Betty and Veronica; Jughead is the omniscient narrator; Moose is gay; there’s a nod and wink to Twin Peaks (a murder has occurred), Beverley Hills 90210 (Luke Perry is Archie’s Dad); Archie has had an affair with Miss Grundy, the music teacher, etc. It’s a very subversive take on Archie and his friends, exploring small town life, the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade.
Supergirl returns from hiatus this week. She’s awfully likeable for a young Superhero.
Arrow has also returned from hiatus and he’s still fighting to save his city.
Gotham (on Mondays) has returned from hiatus and Jim Gordon is still fighting to save his city.
Taboo (on Tuesdays) starring Tom Hardy is dark and mysterious. This mystery is made even harder to follow by Hardy’s impenetrable accent (hello Bane!). His psychopathic character Delaney is on a murderous vendetta against the East India Company.
The Young Pope continues to intrigue and mystify starring Jude Law as a most unlikeable and unlikely American Pontiff. More like Fellini than any other American TV series (from the Italian director of The Great Beauty), this co-production with British Sky TV is totally unique and original. Not for everybody.
Incorporated (on Global in Canada) is a show that flew under my radar until the last couple of weeks, so as the first season has now concluded, you can catch it On Demand. Produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, it is a dystopian future show in which a man attempts to thwart a giant corporation that seems to have unlimited power. Global warming has reduced most of the world to an impoverished husk and international corporations have been given unlimited power to rule over the 99 percenters. Debuting mere weeks after one-man corporation Donald Trump was elected president of the US, Incorporated feels like an ominous predictor of things to come.
Suits (Wednesdays) has returned and Mike is having a rough time getting a job, Harvey and Louis are struggling with the firm’s survival, etc. Those who are following Prince Harry’s love life may get a kick out of seeing his girlfriend Meghan Markle in the role of Rachel Zane, newly minted legal associate and fiancee of Mike.
Colony (Thursdays) returned for its second season. It is a story of a dystopian future where aliens have occupied LA and an active resistance has formed.
Outsiders (Tuesdays) has returned for Season 2. Hillbillies in Appalachia fight big coal on a Kentucky mountain top. Produced by Paul Giamatti, this intriguing series is a David vs Goliath story with both sides willing to do whatever they can to win.
This is my channel for guilty pleasure shows Chicago Fire (Tuesdays), The Blacklist (Thursdays), Grimm and Emerald City (Fridays).
Powerless debuts this Thursday. Starring Alan Tudyk, this show follows the staff of an insurance company specializing in products to protect defenceless bystanders from the collateral damage of Superheroes and Supervillains. I love Alan Tudyk who steals most scenes he’s in (Rogue One, Firefly) and am looking forward to it.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Mon-Thurs on Comedy), Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show (Mon-Fri on CBS), and Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal (Wednesdays on TBS) all return with new shows this week. I count on these shows to make me laugh at the decidedly unfunny daily news.
Have a wonderful week wherever you are! For my southern friends, wear lots of sunscreen and for my northern family and friends, be careful on that nasty ice, regardless of whether you are walking or driving.
Sent from my iPad
I attended yesterday’s Women’s March in downtown Naples. It was a totally positive and inspiring experience. I love this country and happen to think it’s already pretty great, so it was wonderful to see so many like-minded women (estimated to be about 2500) marching together to keep this country great. Among the many signs that people carried was one in particular that simply stated, “Make this country kind again.” Courage, hope and strength is my wish to all my American friends for the future.
Back to my usual predilections, the Academy Award nominations come out Tuesday, so I am busy doing my countdown to see as many of the films as I can before the awards on Feb. 26. And now for some recommendations:
On the Big Screen
Hidden Figures is a wonderful film that tells the previously untold story of three black women who worked for NASA in the sixties. It shows an era where women in the space program were rare and to have 3 black women who played important roles is phenomenal. This was still during the period of segregation where even going to the coloured only bathrooms forced these women to scamper furtively for great distances (not to mention, not being able to attend university, segregated lunchrooms and all the archaic restrictions on women of every colour in the Mad Men days) . Great performances from Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae.
Goliath is an 8 episode legal series starring Billy Bob Thornton as an underdog lawyer going up against his previous powerful law firm as he tries to uncover the real story behind a wrongful death suit against an aerospace company. I had started watching this series back in October when it premiered and didn’t get back to the last 5 episodes or so until this past week. For serious Billy Bob Thornton fans only.
Sneaky Pete is a 10 episode series starring Bryan Cranston and Giovanni Ribisi. Cranston is a crime lord and Ribisi is the con man out to save his brother by insinuating himself with a family of bail bondsmen. I loved this and binged on the entire series last week.
The Man in the High Castle has returned for its second season and is a high concept mystery series that hypothesizes what the world would be like if the Germans and Japanese had been the victors in WWII. Hypnotic and strange, I encourage everyone to take a look.
Grimm (Friday), Emerald City (Friday), Chicago Fire (Tuesday), and The Blacklist (Thursday) are all very enjoyable guilty pleasure shows. Pure escapist entertainment!!
Suits returns this Wednesday for more episodes in this legal drama. Mike’s out of jail, Rachel has had a job offer from her dad’s law firm, Jessica has left the firm and Harvey and Louis are battling to save the firm.
Colony has returned on Thursdays with the backstory of the alien invasion and the rise of the resistance.
Outsiders (produced by Paul Giamatti) returns this Tuesday with its story of a struggle for power and control set in the rugged and mysterious hills of Appalachia. Outsiders tells the story of the Farrell clan, a family of outsiders who’ve been in these parts since before anyone can remember. Living off the grid and above the law on their mountaintop homestead, they’ll protect their world and defend their way of life using any means necessary.
Taboo (Tuesday) with Tom Hardy tells the story of adventurer James Keziah Delaney who builds his own shipping empire in the early 1800’s. Mysterious and slow paced, this series hasn’t hit its stride yet. For serious Tom Hardy fans (of which I am one) only, I suspect.
Young Victoria debuted last Sunday and is a fabulous British costume drama about Queen Victoria’s early years. Ahhh… for those missing The Crown and Downton Abbey, this is just the ticket!
Mercy Street starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead returns tonight. It follows the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposing sides of the Civil War – New England abolitionist Mary Phinney and Confederate supporter Emma Green.
The Young Pope starring Jude Law (a 10 part mini-series) debuted last Sunday and airs two episodes a week on Sunday and Monday evenings. This fantasy tells the story of the beginning of the pontificate of Lenny Belardo, alias Pius XIII, the first American Pope in history. I can’t say I’m in love with this challenging, surrealistic series. Lenny is no modernizer. He has chosen a name that places him in a line of conservative papacies (Pius XI was a big fan of Mussolini) and is intent on restoring the church to its former glory. Uh oh… “Make the Vatican Great Again?”
Gotham is another guilty pleasure show for me about Batman when he was a boy. I am a huge fan of Ben Mackenzie (The OC) who plays James Gordon, Batman’s mentor. Great villains (Penguin, Riddler, et al) are also shown in their early days. Total escapism!
Homeland returned last week and continues the story of a bipolar CIA operative who is now back in the USA and preparing for the inauguation of the first female president (I guess things looked a little more Hilarian when the season was penned). Great suspense is building.
The Affair continues its story of an author (Dominic West) who blows up his marriage and family to have an affair with a waitress. Dark and sensuous, this is a cautionary tale of the chaos that ensues his decision.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy), The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS), and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee all poke fun at the news. Jimmy Kimmel (Jimmy Kimmel Live!) gave a great summary of how much fun he intends to have over the next 4 years with Donald Trump as President.
Saturday Night Live with Aziz Ansari as host last night had an outstanding show.(the Putin opening sketch; Ansari’s monologue about the new lower case kkk; a movie sketch making fun of La La Land and Westworld; a superb Kelly Anne Conway/Bob Fosse musical number; a very touching To Sir With Love closing). Catch it on demand or Youtube if you missed it.
CBS Sunday Morning
This show is my Sunday morning ritual. It takes a measured look at human interest stories, celebrity profiles and today’s news. Touching, hopeful, and inspiring, it’s a softer, more tender version of 60 Minutes. As it closed a segment on a group of Naples area high school students (from hardscrabble Immokalee) who attended the inauguration, it stated that “any civil discourse should begin with civility.”
I am looking forward to the week ahead which will feature Pickleball (much more strenuous than I had imagined as I thought it might be a little more like ping pong where your opponent hits the ball directly to you) and instead it features running for the ball after twilight with microscopic bugs attacking you in the extreme Florida heat; I have a couple of Mahjong games scheduled as well as a couple of golf games and our weekly Bocci Ball game. I also love my fitness classes here and am actually lifting weights, and doing Pilates and Yoga. I’m still reading my Daniel Silva spy novels (I’m about to start The Defector as I’m in a Russian state of mind) and I have started my book group novel, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah about WWII and the French Resistance. As for the political climate here, I am encouraged that those of us on opposite sides of the political discourse can agree to disagree agreeably. Have a wonderful week wherever you are!
It has been a somewhat hectic week. We spent last weekend visiting friends in the Keys and touring Key West. I then had to get back into the swing of things with exercise classes, golf, Mahjong and perhaps most important of all, my Academy Awards countdown (inspired by last weekend’s Golden Globes Awards). I did host a Girlfriends of Treviso Bay coffee party to introduce 30 new residents to each other and to the myriad activities that we now offer in our community, so having now tidied up my place, I will take a few minutes to make some recommendations.
On the Big Screen
Jackie stars Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy dealing with the aftermath of JFK’s assassination. She is tremendously effective as the incredibly intelligent and sensitive First Lady, however the film is a little slow-paced, and I did actually wake myself up at one point with my own snoring. This is a very subtle and nuanced film which takes a very multi-layered approach to telling her story. I was struck by what a young woman she was, coping with an incredibly painful and difficult reality. The film is very poignant in its references to Camelot, the myth of the once and future king. Great resonance to today’s presidency which we will one day look back on with the benefit of hindsight and history. Note to self: scheduling movie outings for afternoons can coincide with my natural nap time.
Lion stars Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman. It’s about the journey of a man who is adopted as a 5 year-old by a couple in Tasmania, who gradually decides to search for his real family in India. The film is very touching and inspiring and I was very happy to find a package of Kleenex in my purse during the last segment of the film. Bring your hankies!
Moonlight is a small independent film that tells the story of Chiron, a young black man, who comes of age as he comes to terms with his sexuality. We see the story told in 3 stages: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. There are wonderful performances by character actors: Mahershala Ali is very powerful as a drug dealer who helps him as a child; Janelle Monae is the dealer’s compassionate girlfriend who takes care of him in her home; Naomie Harris is his drug addicted mother. This film is filled with touching scenes of a harrowing childhood and adolescence. Most poignant of all is the final chapter where Chiron has developed such a guard against the world, a toxic masculinity that’s led him down dark and dangerous alleys to avoid facing who he really is. This is the most challenging, and perhaps most rewarding and thought provoking of the 3 films I saw this week. Not for everyone. The total opposite of a feel-good movie.
I’ve been glued to Amazon this week!
The Man in the High Castle has unveiled its second season and is just as murky and puzzling as Season 1. The hypothesis of the show (what would the world be like if Germany and Japan were the victors in WWII) is now being questioned by an alternate reality world where the outcome of the war is challenged.
Sneaky Pete is a Bryan Cranston/Giovanni Ribisi series about a con man desperately trying to save his brother from the clutches of an evil policeman turned crime lord. Wonderfully unpredictable with lots of plot twists and turns. The wonderful Margo Martingale stars as a grandmother trying to salvage the family Bail Bond business.
I caught up with the last episode of Chance (starring Hugh Laurie) this week. Incredibly dark and labyrinthine. Gretchen Mol steals the show as a femme fatale with multiple personality disorder.
On the Broadcast Networks
Nashville is back and soapier than ever! Juliette’s in a wheelchair and back with Avery; Raina and Deacon are worried about their future; Maddie is an intern at a recording studio; so enjoyable!!
Taboo starring Tom Hardy debuted this past week. It’s a historical drama from the Peaky Blinders team that tells the story of a man who is on a campaign of revenge against the East India Company set in the 19th century. Crazy and dark!
The Young Pope (starring Jude Law and Diane Keaton) begins its 10 episode run tonight and will air on consecutive Sun and Mon nights for the next 5 weeks. From the reviews, this is no ordinary look at the Papacy, but should be a wild ride.
Emerald City Despite my horror of reboots, I have found this new look at The Wizard of Oz, quite fascinating. If you liked Wicked (prequel to The Wizard of Oz) you might like this version. Great special effects that would, of course, been unavailable in 1939.
Grimm has debuted its final season. Kind of lacklustre as this monster of the week show tries to bring its plot lines to conclusion.
Chicago Fire and The Blacklist continue. I’m still waiting to Tom Keen (aka Ryan Eggold) to get his own show The Blacklist: Redemption which debuts on Feb 23.
Sherlock on Masterpiece Mystery will be airing its final episode tonight. Although I do like Benedict Cumberbatch, I find this series terribly self indulgent and a snoozefest at times.
Victoria on Masterpiece Theatre will debut tonight for all of you fans of The Crown and Downton Abbey. Ahhh, period costumes and British accents. I will be in heaven!
Homeland returns tonight and we’re back in the USA approaching the inauguration of a new president. Quinn is in an awful way after his ordeal in Berlin and Carrie is trying to save him and the rest of the world.
The Affair continues its story of a man who blows up his marriage and life to have an affair with a sultry waitress. A cautionary tale.
I finished watching the last episode of Good Behaviour with Michelle Dockery. Catch up with this one on On Demand if you missed it (not sure when and where it will air in Canada). Lady Mary from Downton Abbey will knock your socks off as a southern con woman trying to get custody of her son.
I have been bingeing on episodes of People of Earth, a Conan O’Brien produced series about a group of alien abductees who meet in a support group. This show is clever and hilarious. Try and find it On Demand or when it debuts in Canada (on Comedy, I believe). It is filmed largely in Canada and is filled with Canadian actors.
Younger ended its third season on a terrific cliffhanger this week. Can’t wait for Season 4 to start.
George and I finished listening to When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It is a memoir about his life and illness, battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. Touching and inspiring. It is very much about a life lived with courage and a great sense of purpose.
Our book group read A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. I loved this family saga and was happy to finally finish a novel by Anne Tyler.
Guilty Pleasure Reading
I am now devouring my third novel by Dan Silva, author of 19 espionage novels. I started with his last two books, The English Spy and The Black Widow and then purchased Moscow Rules and The Defector as tales of Russian espionage abound in today’s news cycle. I can’t wait for the next James Bond film, although I would settle for just about anything starring Daniel Craig (soon to be seen in the TV adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity).
Samantha Bee (Full Frontal on TBS), Trevor Noah (The Daily Show on Comedy) and Stephen Colbert (The Late Show on CBS) have all given me many moments of laughter and insight regarding the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump. Last night’s Saturday Night Live had a great opening segment with Alec Baldwin impersonating Trump at his press conference and Weekend Update also had some great lines re the wisdom of Trump alienating the media and doing a hilarious run down of the Cabinet Nominees.
The Academy Awards are approaching on Feb. 26, so of course, I will be doing my own countdown in an attempt to see as many of the films as I can. Hidden Figures, Fences, and Elle are all on my list. This week I am going to my first club Trivia Night, and attending my usual golf and mahjong games, bocci ball, exercise classes, etc. George and I bought Pickleball rackets over the summer and are going to play our first game tomorrow night. Pray for me as I am not particularly gifted at racket sports (I believe some kind of rapid side to side movement is involved, and I far prefer it when people hit the ball to my exact location, so that no running is required). Enjoy your week!
We arrived back in Naples very late on Friday. Saturday was a blur as we ran errands and got ready for our New Year’s Eve guests. New Year’s Eve was a lovely evening spent with good friends at our favourite Naples restaurant Blue Provence in the docks area. Today has been a day of catching up with some household chores and we got out for a little walk around our local birding area, Eagle Lakes. It’s been a week of much visiting and very little TV, but I do have a few recommendations:
On the Big Screen
For some recommendations on upcoming films, here’s an article from the Globe with some recommendations:
Full Circle Miami is available in Toronto on Superchannel and I haven’t had a chance to find it yet here in Florida. Based on screenplays by Neil Labute this is series told in 20 minute episodes and is a very dark miniature version of House of Cards as a presidential candidate finds himself deep in trouble when he wakes up beside a prostitute he has apparently beaten up.
The Hollars is wonderful film starring and directed by John Krasinski, and also stars Richard Jenkins, Margo Martindale, Anna Kendrick and Sharlto Copley. I adored this family drama about love and loss.
Good Behaviour is available on TNT in the US and I don’t believe it has aired yet in Canada. Great series starring Michelle Dockery (haughty Lady Mary from Downton Abbey) as a down on her luck grifter in the US South. Dockery is amazing in this role and is capable of looking completely different with changes of hair and makeup. Her southern accent is also pretty convincing.
Homeland Season 6 Episode 1 is currently streaming On Demand from Showtime in the US. We are back on US home soil and there is a new female President Elect about to be inaugurated against a backdrop of homegrown terrorism. Quinn is in a terrible way following his Berlin misadventures but Carrie is trying to look out for him.
Benedict Cumberbatch returns in Season 4 of Sherlock tonight.
The Affair continues tonight with Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. Intrigue and heartbreak and it answers the question of whatever became of Brendan Fraser’s career.
While home in December, I binged on Kim’s Convenience and This Life, both great series on CBC. Catch up with them if you have a chance.
New series Ransom about a hostage negotiator begins tonight on CBS.
This should be an action packed week of getting back to fitness classes, participating in a series of golf clinics, and getting back to my regular golf games and mahjong ladies. By the end of the week, we are setting off on a road trip to the Keys to visit Key West and some longtime friends. The weather here has been glorious and we are looking forward to the next 3 months or so of getting back into our Florida routines. It is also time to gear up for the Academy Awards show on February 26, so there are many films to be watched over the next 8 weeks.