We are leaving Florida on April 11, so we are cherishing every day we have left here. I had a longtime friend come and visit this past week, and two dear couple friends are visiting us before we leave. Today is the day of our neighbourhood street party, so neighbours are starting to say good bye to each other as we start our journeys home. It will be wonderful to see our family and friends at home in Ontario, but we just wish we could bring our Florida weather home with us. Oh well, hoping for spring weather and daffodils on our return.
My visiting friend this past week informed me that she never watches TV, so I enticed her to watch a couple of films with me instead. I did spend some time this weekend trying to catch up on my 83% full PVR, but I still haven’t gotten around to all my recorded programs, so here come a few recommendations for items you may be overlooking:
On the Big Screen
Last week I raved about the new live action version of Beauty and the Beast (which I regard as a masterpiece in the Disney canon that includes, Up, Ratatouille, The Jungle Book, etc. If you are a B&tB fan, you may enjoy this article:
20th Century Women is a sweet and gentle memoir about a teenager growing up in a very unconventional 1970’s household headed up by single mom Annette Bening. Wistful and slow paced, it’s a portrait of women behaving unconventionally during the heady times of the emerging women’s liberation movement and the hallucinogenic 70’s. A very different sort of coming of age movie.
I am JFK Jr – A Tribute to a Good Man. This documentary (which originally aired on HBO) is an homage to America’s fallen prince and the Kennedy legacy. It is the story of a young man destined for greatness, but determined to be good in a world filled with high expectations. Featuring cinematically shot interviews with John’s friends ranging from the famous, like Robert De Niro and Cindy Crawford, to the controversial – Mike Tyson and Larry Flynt. The vintage footage of young John in the White House, on vacation with his family, and rare footage of him in the years after his famous father’s assassination are rather poignant.
Worth Seeking Out
Con artists are trending this year (Good Behaviour on USA, Sneaky Pete on Amazon Prime, Imposters on Bravo) and Shut Eye is an addictive Hulu series starring Jeffrey Donovan as a scammer who develops a real ability to predict the future. I binged on all 10 episodes this past week. Beware, you may get hooked!
Iron Fist has been very controversial for its white washed casting of a blonde blue eyed Brit (Finn Jones from Game of Thrones) in what was originally depicted in the comics as an Asian. I must confess that I have bingewatched several episodes of this highly addictive martial arts series and have found it mindlessly enthralling regardless of its politically incorrect casting.
Into the Badlands returned to AMC for its second season last Sunday night and I still haven’t caught up with it. This martial arts based series is about a mighty warrior and a young boy who search for enlightenment in a ruthless territory controlled by feudal barons. Not for everyone, but I liked its badass kookiness. The Walking Dead is nearing its season finale and things are starting to look bad for Negan.
This network continues to delight with its miniseries like Fargo (returning shortly for Season 3), American Crime Story, and this year’s Feud about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange are amazing in their depictions of the two stars. The Americans (Tuesdays) is still dark and thrilling and this year, and, because of our new found focus on Putin’s Russia (yet another journalist shot to death recently), continues to be more timely than ever.
Several trusted friends have now told me how much they have enjoyed Z: The Beginning of Everything. This is a biography series based on the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the brilliant, beautiful and talented Southern Belle who becomes the original flapper and icon of the wild, flamboyant Jazz Age in the 20’s. Starring Christina Ricci as Zelda Fitzgerald, Z starts before she meets the unpublished writer F.Scott Fitzgerald and moves through their passionate, turbulent love affair and their marriage – made in heaven and lived out in hell as the celebrity couple of their time.
American Crime (Sunday nights) has returned for its third season with a wonderful cast (headed by Felicity Huffman) and is focusing this year on human trafficking. Powerful stories of individuals caught up in this shameful practice, the series is beautifully written and acted.
With the notable exceptions of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Late Late Show with James Corden and of course my moment of Zen show CBS Sunday Morning, I rarely find myself drawn to the network’s hugely popular line up of police procedurals and 1/2 hour sitcoms. John Doyle has a wonderful Globe column on how CBS programming is generally of high appeal to Trump followers:
Guilty pleasures abound on this network for me. Chicago Fire on Tuesdays (hunky firefighters abound) had a hilariously overwrought episode this past week about a gang of black teenagers taking the entire firehouse hostage. Chicago Justice on Sundays (also simplistically overwrought) features the blonde and handsome actor Philip Winchester heading up the State Attorney’s dedicated team of prosecutors and investigators as he navigates heated city politics and controversy head-on, while fearlessly pursuing justice. Sadly, I am finding The Blacklist: Redemption on Thursdays (starring Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen) almost unwatchable as the team of covert mercenaries solves problems that governments “don’t dare touch”.
Despite my digs about guilty pleasures and formulaic programming on Network TV, John Doyle has another great column on Network TV:
If you haven’t yet caught up with Riverdale (Thursdays), see if you can catch it on demand. Dark and subversively comedic, it’s an Archie’s comic brought to life for millennials. I also enjoy The 100 on Wednesdays about attractive young people lost in space.
This wonderful network seems to still be in fundraising mode, but our local affiliate is airing To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters at 9 pm tonight. British sisters Charlotte (Finn Atkins), Emily (Chloe Pirrie) and Anne (Charlie Murphy) Bronte write classic 19th-century novels while dealing with their troubled brother (Adam Nagaitis). Looking forward to this Brit costume drama. Sigh… English accents and period costumes are my favourites!!
When I set up the above program to record tonight, it knocked out two Sunday night favourites of mine, Billions and Homeland (which are both easily time shifted). Both shows originally starred Brit Damian Lewis (red haired, small mouthed). Although he is long departed from Homeland (still starring Clare Danes as a slightly crazed heroine), he is still playing a ruthless capitalist hedge fund owner (is there any other kind?) on Billions.
Canadians should be deservedly proud of Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal (Wednesday nights) where Bee fearlessly kicks ass on a weekly basis as she turns her comic gaze on the political quagmire that has descended upon America.
Famed for its original programming of high quality dramas (currently Big Little Lies), challenging sitcoms (currently Girls and Crashing). HBO also is home to two political comedy series (Real Time with Bill Maher on Fridays and Last Week Tonight on Sundays with John Oliver).
I usually write this blog while watching my favourite program of the week, CBS Sunday Morning. Today’s episode opened with a segment on the polarization of political news coverage in the US media. Fascinating stuff. I then usually catch up on all the other news of the day with Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN. Zakaria gives a calm and usually dispassionate focus on world events (although last week he went a little nuts using the term bullshit to repeatedly call out the Trump administration’s fast and loose way with the truth). In conclusion, try not to watch too much political coverage as it will only raise your blood pressure. Enjoy this beautiful spring weather!!