The Oscars are finally here!!!

We will be watching the show tonight with some of our Florida neighbours.  There will be games and valuable prizes!  I did a little prep by watching the BAFTA (British Academy) awards and the Independent Spirit Awards last night.  For a summary of the Indy awards you can read this article from the NY Times:

 

The red carpet fun starts very early tonight on ABC (the show is filmed in LA which is 3 hours earlier than eastern time), but I will be tuning in to the coverage as of 7 pm.  The awards presentation itself starts at 8 pm.  Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, it should be very interesting to watch, as politics will likely play an important role. Again, the NY Times ran an article this week on why Kimmel will likely be a good host for a political Oscars telecast:

 

And now for my other recommendations:

On the Big Screen

John Wick: Chapter Two (starring Keanu Reeves) was two hours of unrestrained mayhem.  I accompanied my son Jon to his choice of movie and I found the level of killing (at least 200 in the body count according to my son) mind boggling.  Who knew there were so many professional killing squads?  My heart was stolen by Ruby Rose as an adorable mute assassin with a bad ass haircut and incredibly expressive sign language skills.

The Founder (starring Michael Keaton) is the story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence and ruthlessness. The movie is ultimately very sad as the two brothers see themselves obliterated from the business they started.

Inspirational Documentary

Becoming Warren Buffett is the perfect antidote for living with the craziness of today’s politics and watching the ruthless rise of Ray Kroc’s takeover of McDonald’s.  Produced for HBO, the film shows how the legendary investor started out as an ambitious, numbers-obsessed boy from Nebraska and ended up becoming one of the richest and most respected men in the world. His charitable activities are truly inspiring.

Inspirational Museum

My son accompanied me to the Southwest Florida Holocaust Museum.  Our book group read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah last month and I really wanted to know more about resistance movements during WWII, so I was able to convince my son to join me on a visit to this incredibly moving museum. From the Yelp page:

History cannot be denied.  Everyone needs to visit, whether young or old, if only to refresh one’s moral consciousness.  This Museum houses a sobering collection of letters, photographs, and artifacts donated from the personal holding of SW FL Families and survivors of the mid-20th century Nazi hate and death campaigns in Europe.  There is an Audio Guide, and Volunteer docents convey compelling detail, steeped in both largely known and obscure facts. Pastor Martin Niermoller’s quote is at the door, and is most poignant:

“First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

I had long resisted visiting because I thought it would be too painful, but I’m very glad I went and I’m so proud of my 31-year-old son for seeing it with me.  A long way from the John Wick film.

Debuts This Week

When We Rise debuts on ABC on Monday at 9 pm.  An 8-part miniseries, it chronicles the gay rights movement in the US, beginning with the Stonewall riots in 1969. Based on Cleve Jones’ 2016 memoir of the same title, it stars Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Rachel Griffiths, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Carrie Preston.

My Usual TV Recommendations

There will be many other shows competing for audiences tonight as counter programming is being offered for new episodes of The Walking Dead, Homeland, Billions, Black Sails, The Missing, Big Little Lies, Girls, Crashing, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.  PBS has decided to rerun all the Victoria episodes this evening for those of you who have missed it so far.

As for my usual weekly obsessions, have a look back through the archives of this blog.  I am including John Doyle’s latest article on what’s hot on TV as he seems to be enjoying one of my latest faves, Riverdale (the subversive take on Archie comics):

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-whats-hot-now-riverdale-gay-rights-and-the-real-world/article34129024/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

The Comic Relief Team

On Wednesday night, Conan O’Brien has a Prime Time Special on TBS at 10-11 pm.  Conan Without Borders: Made in Mexico.  In light of the negative news surrounding the state of the US-Mexico relationship, Conan decides to strike a positive note by hosting a show in Mexico City with an all Mexican staff, crew, guests, and audience.  It should be hilarious!

Closing Words

We entered a whole new world of TV viewing this week, as George and Jon headed to the Xfinity store to pick up our new Xfinity X1 box.  Voice activated and state of the art, it makes your old cable system and PVR seem like antiques.  I am still getting used to all the new features, but I have to confess that I am loving what it can do at the touch of a finger and it has the best voice activated system I have ever encountered.  Even better than the Amazon Alexa which I thought was pretty cool.  Available to Comcast subscribers, Rogers subscribers can look forward to this service later in the year as they have just licensed it as well.  Oh yes, and I received a lovely new iPad Pro (9.7″) for my birthday last week and now my old iPad seems like an antique as well.  Tomorrow we are off for a little boating in the Everglades as our 10 days of excursions with our son is winding down.  He has now discovered the worlds of Pickleball, Bocci, and he even got his dad to purchase new tennis racquets this week.  I will be playing golf and Mahjong as usual (plus attending our book group – the tearjerker Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes) and we will be welcoming some visitors from our Thornbury gang of friends.  Other good friends are arriving this week to begin their month-long rental stay at Treviso Bay, so the good times will continue to roll.

Have a wonderful week wherever you are and don’t forget to tune in to the Oscars tonight (or even better, record it and avoid all the commercials)!!

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So much catching up to do…

We had a wonderful time with our friends in Palm Springs.  We visited them 5 years ago when they first bought their beautiful mid-century modern home there and we were honoured to be with them on this last visit as they have sold up, lock, stock and barrel and are moving on to new adventures.  Very bittersweet for all of us.  We enjoyed perfect weather and had some great hikes, incredible meals and many toasts with festive beverages.I didn’t watch much TV, so I had a lot of catching up to do when we got home this week. Here are my recommendations:

On the big screen

Elle with Isabelle Huppert. Nominated for Best Foreign Film (France) at the Oscars, this thriller will have you on the edge of your seat with its plot twists and turns.  On the surface, it’s a rape revenge fantasy, but underneath it’s a savage look at life among the Parisian bourgeoisie.  I loved it, but it’s probably a little dark for most people. Just watch it for Huppert’s performance, for which she has been honoured as best actress at many festivals and competitions.

ON Demand

As I flew back from California on United Airlines this week, I took another look at Me Before You (based on the novel by Jo Jo Moyes).  I had originally seen the film before I read the book (it’s on my Florida Book Club list for March).  Having now read the book, I cried my eyes out from almost start to finish while watching the movie.  It’s a beautiful adaptation of a lovely novel about a caregiver and her patient who come to care deeply for each other.  Bring out your hankies!  Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Sam Claflin are perfectly cast in the major roles.

Streaming

The Path (Hulu) continues its harrowing tale of life inside a cult.

Amazon

The Collection is a gripping family drama and entrepreneurial fable, set in a post-war Paris fashion house.  It exposes the grit behind the glamour of a rising business, spearheaded by two clashing brothers.  It’s a little jarring to hear very British accents in the roles of Parisians, but you eventually get over the weirdness of that.  Intrigue abounds.

FX

Legion has aired its first two episodes about a mutant with astonishing powers.  From the Marvel Universe, Dan Stevens is almost unrecognizable from his Downton Abbey days as Matthew Crawley. Not for most of the people in my life, but I am intrigued by this sort of thing.

Taboo continues with its dark and mysterious ways. Tom Hardy is charismatic as the mysterious protagonist on a revenge mission against the East India Company.

Starz

Billions has returned with Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. Their cat and mouse game continues as the billionaire hedge fund manager and the state prosecutor try to ruin each other.

Black Sails (aargh!) continues its final season. Revolution is coming to Nassau. Long John Silver comes to life in this prequel to Treasure Island.

WGN

Outsiders tells the story of Appalachian hillbillies who are fighting big coal’s attempt to blow the lid off their mountain.  Fascinating stuff.

HBO

Little Big Lies debuts tonight.  Starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz.  Here is a rave review from The Daily Beast:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/16/big-little-lies-reese-witherspoon-is-so-damn-good.html?via=newsletter&source=DDMorning

Girls with Lena Dunham (special guest star Riz Ahmed showing off his rapping skills) and Adam Driver returned for its final season last week.  Here’s John Doyle’s take on it:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-girls-final-season-is-as-real-and-riling-as-ever/article33983628/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

The Young Pope aired its last two episodes last week.  I haven’t gotten around to watching them yet and frankly, I’m holding off. A thoroughly reprehensible protagonist (Jude Law) whose self-serving amorality induces shudders.  I will watch this when the weather prevents any other type of activity.

Showtime

Homeland is heating up!!  Will Quinn completely recover?  Why does Saul keep getting himself dragged out of cars with a hood over his head?  Will Carrie (Claire Danes) save the world from terrorism again?

The Missing returned for a second season (Keeley Hawes and David Morrissey are the leads for Season 2) last Sunday.  Here’s John Doyle’s recommendation:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-the-missing-is-a-brilliant-thriller-about-unbearable-suffering/article34010031/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

FOX

Imposters has aired its first two episodes.  A delightful black comedy/revenge fantasy about a team of grifters who operate by targeting vulnerable souls and then fleecing them for everything they have, including their dignity.  The fun starts when the victims join forces to exact their revenge.  Here’s John Doyle’s take:

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-lets-all-root-for-an-amoral-anti-heroine/article33911109/

Speaking of saving the world from terrorism, a new version of 24 has returned with a former Special Forces officer out to stop a series of sleeper cell attacks.  He’s no Jack Bauer, but he’s a great character in his own way.

NBC

I still haven’t caught up with my pure guilty pleasure shows Grimm, Emerald City and Blacklist, but it’s only one week until Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) gets his own spin-off series, The Blacklist Redemption (debuts Feb. 23).

PBS

I still haven’t caught up with Mercy Street and Victoria, but I will relish watching both of them.

The CW

Arrow and The 100 are both in full swing.  For science fiction and fantasy fans.

Riverdale has emerged as an extremely watchable mystery series that has turned the Archie comic book series into a very intriguing look at life in a seemingly idyllic small town and the darkness that lies beneath it.  I am loving it!

The News Shows/The Political Comedy Shows

Well, I simply can’t stop watching my favourite new channel CNN as it covers the amazing unfolding story of this new presidency.  The recent press conference was totally fascinating to watch.

On NBC, Seth Meyers: A Closer Look segments have become must see viewing:

Likewise Bill Maher’s Friday night Real Time series has featured provocative speakers and roundtable discussions:

Milo Yiannopoulos Brings Out The Hate On Post-Show ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’ Segment – Update

Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee are also must see viewing for their comedic take on the latest political insanity.

My Moments of Zen

I am about to turn on my favourite show of the week, CBS Sunday Morning. It soothes and comforts me.  Ah……  I finally caught up with BBC’s series Planet Earth.  BBC America is rerunning the whole series as Planet Earth II is about to debut.  The most astonishing nature photography I have ever seen.  Lose yourself amongst penguins, polar bears and caribou, when the worries of today’s world seem overwhelming.

Final Words

I am headed to the airport later this morning to pick up my son Jon for his 10-day visit with us.  We have many excursions planned, so I hope the boy doesn’t think he’s going to be lying by the pool the whole time he’s here.  He’s going to be my bocci and pickle ball partner.  We are off to purchase some tennis racquets so that we can actually try out our numerous tennis courts here.  I may drag him to some fitness classes and try and get him to join me for a round or two of golf. Of course being my son, he wants to see some films in luxurious surroundings (The Mercato where you can wine and dine while watching films in very comfortable leather seats).  This happens to be my birthday week, so we’ll be celebrating with friends at a neighbourhood spot.  Hoping you all have a wonderful week, and don’t forget to try and see some of the Oscar nominated films.  It makes watching the show so much for fun!! Set your PVRs for next Sunday, February 26 if you are going to be away!

Only 3 weeks to go before the big night…

Now I know that for most of my American friends, the year’s biggest night of TV celebrations is happening tonight with The Stupor Bowl (a great excuse for watching terrific commercials and consuming thousands of calories of super loaded Nachos).  For me, the best night of TV is The Oscars on Feb 26, and I am busily trying to see as many nominated films as possible. It was a pretty hectic week as I entertained a friend from Toronto, did my usual fitness, bocci ball, golf and went to my first pickle ball clinic with one of our tennis pros. While entertaining my friend, we went on Naples’ best unsung boat cruise and did the sunset harbour tour using the Naples Shuttle which takes you around the Gordon Harbour and drops off and picks up at all the waterfront restaurants. Yesterday I attended the Naples Garden Club House & Garden Tour which was a wonderful tour of 4 fabulous homes and gorgeous gardens which shows you how the other 1 percent of Neapolitans live.  Wow!!! Now for some recommendations:

Films currently On Demand or Streaming:

The Edge of Seventeen is a charming coming of age film starring the immensely talented and likeable Hailee Steinfeld. I loved this upbeat and delightful film.
Nocturnal Animals starring the ubiquitous Amy Adams (nominated for Best Actress in Arrival) and directed by Tom Ford, this dark challenging film within a film utterly defeated me.  I found it so thoroughly unpleasant that I had to stop watching it after 30 minutes.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a thriller based on a series of Lee Childs novels.  Starring a newly puffy-looking Tom Cruise, this by-the-numbers action flick is totally unengaging and we turned it off after an hour, not really caring whether Cruise was successful in beating the bad guys or not, since these formula films always end in success as there will be an inevitable sequel. (Ooh, run-on sentence alert!)

Netflix

The Santa Clarita Diet debuted this weekend and stars Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant as a married couple of realtors who realize that the wife has become a zombie.  Not nearly as amusing as the CW series IZombie which is currently on hiatus. SCD is a 1/2 hour sitcom which isn’t nearly as funny as it tries to be.  For serious zombie enthusiasts only.

Hulu

The Path starring Aaron Paul is an exploration of life inside a cult.  It is an intriguing look at a crisis of faith and has returned for its second season.

 

BBC/Acorn

Witness for the Prosecution is the latest rendition of the Agatha Christie short story. Starring Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough and Kim Cattrall it’s the story of the prosecution of the accused murderer of a wealthy glamorous heiress who is found dead in her London townhouse.  Shown as a two-part miniseries in England, it has been put together as a two-hour film for North American audiences and is available here by subscription to the Acorn service which provides British television to American audiences. I’m not sure of how the series will air in Canada, but it is terrific and worth looking for through various streaming services.

 

STARZ

Black Sails has returned from hiatus and tells the story behind Treasure Island.  Great for lovers of pirate tales.

USA

Suits (Wednesdays) has returned from hiatus and continues to tell the story of Mike who is newly released from prison for masquerading as a lawyer and who is trying to get a new start in life.

Colony (Thursdays) has returned from its hiatus for its second season.  It’s the story of resistance after the Earth is invaded by aliens.  Great suspense series.

SYFY

The Expanse (Wednesdays) has returned from hiatus and began its second season with a 2-hour debut episode.  Reminiscent of great space series like Battlestar Gallactica, it stars Thomas Jane as a police detective in the asteroid belt, Shohreh Aghdashloo as a UN executive and Steven Strait as the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter.  The three major characters slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens the Earth’s rebellious colony on the asteroid belt.  Intrigue in space!

CMT

Nashville (Thursdays) which was dropped by ABC has resurfaced on Country Music Television.  The   soap opera continues:  Juliette has found God, Avery has restarted his performance career, Rayna and Deacon are struggling with their girls, Maddie is having an interracial romance, Scarlett is as fragile as ever and is back with Gunner, etc.

WGN

Outsiders airs on Tuesdays (produced by Paul Giamatti) and has returned for its second season.  Hillbillies in Appalachia fight big coal.

 

FX

Legion debuts this week (Wednesday) and stars Dan Stevens (Matthew on Downton Abbey!!!) Legion, based on the Marvel Comics, is about a troubled young man who may be more than human.  Diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years.  Now in his early 30’s and institutionalized once again, David loses himself in the rhythm of the structured regimen of life in the hospital: breakfast, lunch, dinner, therapy, medications, sleep.  David spends the ret of his time in companionable silence alongside his chatterbox friend Lenny (aubrey Plaza), a fellow patient whose life-long drug and alcohol addiction has done nothing to quell her boundless optimism that her luck is about to change.  The pleasant numbness of David’s routine is completely upended with the arrival of a beautiful and troubled new patient named Syd (Rachel Keller). Inexplicably drawn to one another, David and Syd share a startling encounter, after which David must confront the shocking possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees may actually be real.

Taboo (Tuesday) is dark and mysterious and stars the enigmatic Tom Hardy as a man on a mission who has returned from the dead to fight for his father’s estate and carry on a war of revenge with the East India Company.

 

HBO

The Young Pope (Sunday and Monday) continues its story of the most unlikeable pope ever.  For serious Fellini and Jude Law fans only.

 

PBS

Father Brown, Mercy Street and Victoria (Sunday) all continue on my local PBS station.  Ahh… costume dramas and period pieces.  Heavenly!!

SHOWTIME

The Affair and Homeland both air on Sunday nights.  I believe both shows are repeating episodes tonight rather than lose their audiences to the aforesaid Stupor Bowl and hence waste new episodes.

 

NBC

Grimm (Friday), Emerald City (Friday), Blacklist (Thursday) are all guilty pleasure shows for me.

Inspiration and Insight

I have often mentioned my addiction to CBS Sunday Morning as my Sunday morning ritual. It uplifts and energizes me with its human interest stories and cultural segments.  60 Minutes (CBS Sunday nights which is a harder edged sister show to CBS Sunday Morning) is an American institution which features segments of investigational journalism on world affairs and culture.  Fareed Zakaria GPS (CNN Sunday morning) informs every week as he looks at world affairs. PBS offers a wealth of documentary programming through its American Experience series on Tuesdays. Recent episodes have focused on Rachel Carson, who was one of the first environmentalists; Command and Control an examination of the security issues around the US nuclear program, etc.  If you have access to ON Demand features or PBS.Org, I encourage you to have a look at their archives.  Frontline and NOVA also offer wonderful documentaries on important issues.  Face the Nation (hosted by John Dickerson Sunday morning on CBS) offers insight and analysis on the top issues of the day. Politicians, government leaders and international newsmakers are welcomed to a roundtable discussion of current events.  Great discussions abound.

Comic Relief

SNL (Saturday on NBC) has provided some real bright spots in our dystopian political landscape.  Alec Baldwin’s Trump impersonation has become must-see TV in the cold opening segment; this week’s cameo by Melissa McCarthy was a delightful surprise as she did an incredible parody of Sean Spicer. Next Saturday’s show will be hosted by Alec Baldwin, so set your PVRs now.

Seth Myers (Late Night airs nightly after Jimmy Fallon on NBC) has become a mainstay of YouTube with his insightful and hilarious A Closer Look segments where he skewers politicians with scathing comedic criticism.
Trevor Noah (The Daily Show Mon-Thurs on Comedy) continues to poke fun at our society.  Not nearly as beloved as his predecessor Jon Stewart, Noah (biracial from South Africa) amazes me with his ability to entertain and inform in a delightfully refreshing way.
Stephen Colbert (The Late Show Mon-Fri on CBS) is usually hilarious in his skewering of the political landscape.
Samantha Bee (Full Frontal Wed on PBS) has made me so proud to be Canadian.  She is sharp tongued but hilariously so in her comedic critiques of US politics. She will be hosting an alternative White House Correspondents Dinner on TBS on April 29.

In Conclusion

We are off to Palm Springs to visit longtime friends later this week.  Tomorrow we are headed up to the amazing Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary for our annual search for alligators, otters, white-tailed deer, and red-bellied turtles.  A wide variety of wading birds, songbirds, raptors and the fabulous Painted Bunting can be seen throughout the year.  There’s a wonderful boardwalk trail where sharp eyed visitors can also see nesting owls, wood storks, etc.  This week I had the somewhat  shocking  experience of finding a rather large alligator in a spot of rough terrain which was exactly where my golfball landed, so I hope I get to see some gators in the wilds of the Everglades at Corkscrew. In the meantime, have a wonderful week whether you are in the North or the South.