Wow…what a week!

It has been an amazingly full and memorable week.  I had the great pleasure of hosting my longtime high school girlfriends for a few days at our Thornbury place.  We all turned 65 at some point in the last year so it was a group celebration for us.  It was three days of eating, laughter and even some tears.  We walked, swam (well, I did get wet in our pool but you can’t call what I do swimming) and relaxed in the hot tub.  Of course, I showed the girls two of my favourite movies (more on that below).  We spent an evening sitting under the stars and reminiscing around our campfire. We are so lucky and grateful for our friendships which have now spanned over 50 years.  In addition, George and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary with two other couples who have also been married for 45 years.  Longtime friends are the best friends.  Needless to say, I didn’t watch much TV or make it out to the movies, but I do have a few recommendations for you:

Re-watched streaming (for my girlfriends)

The Queen of Versailles (2012; 100 minutes) This is truly one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.  It is a riches-to-rags story about a wealthy Florida couple who start building the biggest private home in America at 90,000 square feet, inspired in part by the Versailles palace in France.  However, in 2008 the housing bubble bursts and the couple sees their lifestyle disintegrate.  The film is jaw-dropping in its scenes of conspicuous consumption and their tragic fall from grace.  There is no narration or off-screen interviewing being done, the couple simply allows the film crew full access to their lifestyle.  It is an amazing depiction of the disintegration of an extravagant lifestyle and a sobering reminder that the American Dream is very fragile.  This was my third viewing of this film and I have to confess that I found it just as engaging as the first time I saw it.

The Big Sick (2017; 120 minutes) I love this true life romantic comedy written by Emily Gordon and her husband Kumail Nanjiani.  It was loosely based on the real-life courtship between them before their marriage in 2007. Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gardner fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash.  When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents, his family’s expectations and his true feelings.  This was also my third viewing of this film and it still moved me to tears and laughter.  A romantic comedy that is truly  both romantic and comedic!!

Streaming

Younger  Season 5 Oh my, Liza’s secret is out and she is facing the consequences of deceiving her boss for whom she truly does feel great affection.
Animal Kingdom Season 3 Oh my, there has and will be blood for this California crime family.  A great American adaptation of a wonderful Australian film.  Catch both on Netflix if you haven’t discovered them yet.

Bravo

Queen of the South Season 3 This terrific crime series has returned from hiatus for its third season.  Hiding from Camila in Malta, Teresa tries to launch a drug empire of her own by striking a deal with a dangerous money launderer.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Margaret Atwood’s dystopian tale of a male dominated theocracy is given a dark and brooding depiction.  So dark…

HBO

The Affair Season 4 This series just debuted its 4th season last week. Helen and Noah are now in LA and are in constant conflict over their children.  Dark and brooding.

Vida and Sweetbitter Both these new series have finished their initial seasons.  Both are focused on women and couldn’t be more different, even though I loved them both. Binge, if you haven’t discovered them yet.

CB Strike I love this new BBC series about a private detective in London.  Great depiction of contemporary London.  The interplay between the detective and his new assistant is intriguing.

W

Imposters Season 2 This series about con artists is quickly coming to a close.  A very clever black comedy.

Nashville Season 6 This evening soap opera has had a long run but it speedily concluding and trying to wrap up all its storylines. Corny, but I can’t look away.

Comic Relief

All my favourites are currently showing new episodes (Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher, John Oliver and Jim Jeffries).  Jeffries had a terrific Canadian content show last week that featured an interview with Jordan Peterson that was a great introduction to the enemy of political correctness.

Zen Moment

I am writing this blog as I watch this morning’s edition of CBS Sunday Morning.  Gentle segments on immigration, celebrity profiles, San Quentin Penitentiary, etc.  Soothing and illuminating at the same time.

Closing Words

George has just left for Toronto and will be flying off to Cape Breton tomorrow for a golf getaway with 3 very dear friends.  I am anticipating gatherings with my Toronto book group, gourmet group and then my usual golf, mahjong and canasta games.  The sun is just peaking out now after an unusual couple of gloomy days.  We have needed rain desperately up here as it has been an exceptionally dry summer so far.  Enjoy your weather wherever you are and special hugs to my friends dealing with medical challenges.

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Father’s Day Celebration

It’s been a rough couple of weeks as my husband and his family have been very involved getting his mother settled into a new assisted living facility after her recent hospital stay.  She’s awfully confused, but she is finally resting in a new room surrounded by her favourite pieces of art, photographs and furniture.
Today we had the great pleasure of celebrating Father’s Day with our children and we spent the day in Niagara-on-the-Lake dining and watching the musical Grand Hotel.  More info follows below:

Live Theatre

Grand Hotel at the Shaw Festival is frankly not one of the more memorable musicals I’ve ever seen.  It ran on Broadway for 3 years starting in 1989 but it is a rather lacklustre musical set in 1928 Germany (rather like Cabaret).  It also has a narrator (like the emcee in Cabaret), but there the comparisons end.  It never really comes alive; it misses the opportunity to paint a picture of what was happening in Germany at that time; despite some terrific performances, it lacks any major showstopping tunes, and has a very peculiar plot centred on characters that kind of lack charisma.  Anyhow, going to musicals at Shaw and Stratford is a family tradition and I loved the opportunity to spend the day with my children.

Streaming

The Band’s Visit (Israel 2007) is for those who watched the Tony Awards and were intrigued by the musical that won 10 awards including Best Musical. This little film inspired the Broadway show about a police band from Egypt that visits Israel to play at the opening of an Arab cultural centre and accidentally winds up in the wrong town. Very sweet and understated.
Animal Kingdom (Season 3 – 13 episodes) Oh my! This California family commits crimes in order to stay together.
Younger (Season 5 – 12 episodes) Yikes!  The shit is about to hit the fan as Liza’s deception has been revealed to her boss Charles, whom she really really likes.

Netflix

Tabula Rasa (9-episode miniseries from Belgium).  How fabulous the ending of this show was! I never saw it coming! Great mystery about a woman with amnesia who is implicated in the disappearance of a man. There is absolutely no comparison to Marcella or Safe two Netflix mysteries which both had very contrived endings.
Fauda Season 2 (12-episode season from Israel). Mesmerizing story about undercover Israeli operatives trying to stop a terrorist. Non-stop suspense!
Tesla (documentary film from American Experience on PBS) What an intriguing genius this man was.  His inventions are still coming to fruition in the form of cell phones, wifi, etc.  A heartbreaking study of a mad genius who was truly ahead of his time.
Five Came Back (3-episode miniseries)  The wartime contributions of five prominent Hollywood film directors during WWII are profiled.  With narration by Meryl Streep and commentary from Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass, Lawrence Kasdan and Steven Spielberg.  Magnificent and heartbreaking to see the real life footage that these directors compiled.  I was so gratified to see the tribute to my favourite film, The Best Years of Our Lives, which was commented on by Steven Spielberg, as it is also one of his favourite films.  This 1946 film directed by William Wyler is a touching look at 3 WWII veterans trying to readjust to civilian life.  Bring a hankie.

HBO

 

New mini series alert: Sharp Objects (based on Gillian Flynn’s novel) is coming to HBO next week:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-jean-marc-vallee-dives-deeper-and-darker-into-prestige-tv-with-new/

The Affair (Season 4 – 8 episodes) This series returns tonight and is apparently now set in California!

Billions (Season 3 – 12 episodes) Wow! What an ending to this season. Very intriguing and satisfying as the cat and mouse game was getting a little stale.
Patrick Melrose  (4 episode miniseries) You can still catch up with this one which is worth watching for Benedict Cumberbatch’s tour de force performance.

Bravo

Handmaid’s Tale (Season 2 – 13 episodes) What an episode this past week! Canada had a starring role!

AMC

Dietland (10 episode miniseries) A very intriguing black comedy that combines the story of the self-awakening of a struggling fashion magazine ghostwriter with the mystery of who is killing a series of sexually abusive men in NYC.

FX

Pose (8 episode miniseries) I am fascinated by Evan Peters’ role as the married man in love with a transsexual woman in this world of 1986 which looks at the ball culture world and the transvestite/transexual culture that was emerging.

Superchannel

Deep State (8 episode miniseries) Dark and murky intrigue in the Middle East.
Mr Mercedes (10 episode miniseries) Terrific ending to this tale of a retired cop on the trail of a serial killer.

W

Nashville (Season 6 – 16 episodes) The melodrama of this long running series now in its final season continues as the band deals with its Yoko Ono wannabe.
Imposters (Season 2 – 10 episodes) This dark comedy focuses on a female con artist who marries people and then disappears with their money.  It’s rapidly coming to an end and has sadly been cancelled but will likely live on via Netflix for those who haven’t yet discovered it.

Comic Relief

Still loving my late night entertainers Colbert, Noah, Maher, Bee, Oliver, etc.  They keep me sane!

Closing Words

It’s going to be a busy week!  Aside from the usual golf, mahjong, canasta, etc. I am hosting 5 of my high school girlfriends at our place in Thornbury as we all celebrate our 65th birthdays together.  There will be lots of food and laughter!  Finally, we are celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary next weekend with two other couples who also got married 45 years ago.  More food and laughter!  Have a wonderful week and special hugs to everyone dealing with health issues.

Ah….The Tony Awards!!

I am eagerly awaiting tonight’s big show The Tony Awards (8 pm on CBS).  They will be hosted by the immensely talented and likeable Josh Groban (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812) and Sarah Bareilles (Waitress) who both made Broadway debuts in the last couple of years.  There is no single standout show like Hamilton this year, so it will be a great opportunity to see what’s being honoured on Broadway this year without one single show earning most of the awards.  Here are some other recommendations for your viewing pleasure:

Streaming

A Fantastic Woman This lovely film starring a transgendered actress (played by Daniela Vega) is the Chilean film that won the Best Foreign Film award at the Oscars this year.  It is a wonderful movie about a transgendered woman in Santiago, Chile whose partner dies suddenly of a brain aneurism and who is then plunged into a terrible situation where she is suspected of causing his death and hounded by the police and her partner’s family.  Inspiring and surprising.

Netflix

Fauda Season 2 George and I watched all 12 episodes of this season in 2 days, so that’s an indication of how addictive this Israeli series is.  The Israeli operatives are Arabic speaking infiltrators in the West Bank of Palestine.  The great irony of this show is that the Israelis and Palestinians are so indistinguishable from each other that they can pass as each other.  In this season, the Palestinians have been studying Hebrew at university and begin to pass as Israelis in their own undercover operations. Mesmerizing!
Marcella Season 2 Last night we watched the first 4 episodes of this British crime series starring a strong female character (Anna Friel) to use Netflix’s own terminology.  There is a serial pedophile/child murderer on the loose.  Here are a couple of articles on Netflix’s tradition of showcasing strong female characters to helm crime series and the Cannes festival’s crime films:
Ali’s Wedding I did enjoy this gentle Australian film about the Melbourne Muslim community.  Look for heartthrob Don Hany (most recently seen as a terrorist in Strike Back) playing a lovable cleric and patriarch.
The Invitation I usually steer clear of suspense films built around people being lured to remote mountain hideaways, but I am following the career of Logan Marshall-Green (striking lookalike to Tom Hardy) so I couldn’t resist this one.  Evil’s afoot!

FX

Pose I can’t imagine there is a huge audience for this series about 1980’s NYC and the vogue phenomenon (celebrated in famous documentary Paris is Burning and Madonna’s song Vogue). Time will tell whether Ryan Murphy’s series is watched by the same audiences who loved Glee, American Horror Story, etc.

HBO

 
Patrick Melrose This 4-part series starred Benedict Cumberbatch as a man so brutally damaged by his pedophile father that he struggles with drug and alcohol addiction his entire life.  I feel more like I survived this miniseries rather than enjoyed it.
 
The Fourth Estate This great 4-part miniseries is about the NYTimes coverage of Trump’s first year in office.  A celebration of the free press and its dedication to exploring all the news that’s fit to print.
CB Strike I love this miniseries based on Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling’s pseudonym) thrillers.  Great atmospheric detective series based in London.
Vida Wonderful series about two Latina sisters in LA.
Sweetbitter Charming series about a young woman trying to make a living working in a fancy NYC restaurant. Even more poignant in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s death.

Superchannel

Mr. Mercedes A very scary look at a retired detective’s pursuit of a serial killer.

W

Imposters This charming and now cancelled series about con artists is drawing to a close.

Recently Returned for new seasons:

Animal Kingdom Season 3 The first 2 episodes of the latest season of this gritty crime series about a family of California miscreants have aired.  Catch up if you dare on Netflix.  Ellen Barkin and Scott Speedman star and both are totally convincing as career criminals heading up their crime family.

Younger Season 5 I love this series about a 40-something passing as a 20-something to get work in the furiously competitive world of publishing in NYC.
 
Nashville Season 6 The last 8 episodes of this series are now airing. Hurting songs ensue as all the storylines are wound up before the series comes to a permanent end.

Giving up on

I’m now introducing a new heading for shows that I can no longer struggle through either because they are too darned bleak for me or so incomprehensible that I can no longer hang in with them.  This week, my two nominees are Legion and Westworld. I no longer care who does what to whom. There are not enough hours in the day…. Honourable mention goes to Reverie, a series so ludicrous, I only lasted one episode

Comedy

The usual suspects (Samantha Bee, Colbert, Noah, Bill Maher, John Oliver, Jim Jeffries – on hiatus).  They make me smile no matter how dire the news.

Zen Moment

I’m eagerly anticipating this morning’s CBS Sunday Morning as it will highlight this year’s aforementioned Tony Awards.

Closing Words

Today I’m heading to a baby shower for a friend’s daughter.  My life long friends will all be there to celebrate this truly joyous event.  My mother-in-law will shortly be moving into a beautiful assisted living facility in Unionville after a harrowing 3-week stay in hospital. Our fitness group is celebrating the end of another season with a luncheon this week. I am hosting a tea party later this week for my friends and fellow golfers in the Thornbury area.  More mahjong and more golf are in the forecast this week.  On the whole, life is pretty good.  Hugs to those facing serious medical challenges.  Enjoy this wonderful weather wherever you are.

 

New and Noteworthy…

 

CB Strike This detective series debuted this past week.  Afghanistan war veteran turned private detective Cormoran Strike solves brutal murders with the help of his trusted assistant Robin Ellacott.  I loved the first episode and am intrigued with the relationship between Strike and his assistant, the gritty London locations, and the whole picture of British society that is depicted.  Very impressed, so far.
Succession This series debuts tonight and follows a dysfunctional American global-media family.  Great cast features Brian Cox, Hiam Abbas, Kieran Culkin, etc.  Think the Murdoch family meets King Lear.  Lifestyles of the rich and ruthless. Black comedy ensues!
The Fourth Estate This 4 part documentary series takes you behind the scenes of journalism.  The incredible first episode focuses on the NYTimes coverage of Trump’s first year in office. Episode 2 concentrates on the NYTimes coverage of James Comey’s memoir.