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):

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)!!

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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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:

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:

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.


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:


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:

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.


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).


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!)


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.


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.



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.



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


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.


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!


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.


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



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.



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



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


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.



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.


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.


Comic Relief

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.

In Conclusion

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


A momentous experience

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.

Comic Relief

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.”

Closing Words

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!

Busy, busy, busy…

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.

Book Group

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).

Comic Relief

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

Back to Paradise…

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.

Closing Words

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.

Christmas visit is almost over…

It has been a very hectic last few weeks with almost all members of the family visited (California niece and nephew hopefully before we go) and reconnecting with lots of Toronto and Thornbury friends. Today we are off to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more, and then dinner with longtime friends. Between feasts we have managed to squeeze in a few trips to the actual movie theatre and I have caught up with a few Netflix and streaming shows as follows:


On the Big Screen

Rogue One, the latest instalment of the Star Wars franchise. A stand alone film with none of the characters from any of the other films, this one is quite unique.  No spoilers from me, but for a great analysis of why this film is strangely relevant and resonates with our current times, I recommend the Salon article below:

Manchester By the Sea is worth seeing for the performances of its two main stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams.  Affleck’s performance is very internalized as he suppresses the guilt and shame his character feels following a tragedy that uproots his life.  Williams gives a searing performance as a mother who experiences the worst kind of tragedy.  The young actor Lucas Hedges who plays the nephew who loses his father is also very effective in his role of a resilient soul who weathers his loss with incredible buoyancy.  For a great article on the best performances of the year by male actors, the following article is terrific:

La La Land is an incredibly romantic loveletter to LA, movie musicals, jazz, the life of an artist, etc.  The sheer musicality of this film may be a surprise to some, but you have to suspend your disbelief at characters breaking into spontaneous (yet somehow perfectly choreographed and scored) song and dance numbers, since this happens from the first moment of this breathtaking film.  Just relax and enjoy.  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are perfect in their roles as a jazz pianist and struggling actress.

For a summary of 2016’s best movies, here’s an article from Esquire that should help you make your viewing choices:


I struggled to watch American Honey (a sad road film about millennials). Riley Keogh is incredibly watchable (granddaughter of Elvis Presley and star of The Girlfriend Experience), but I found the rest of this film gruellingly difficult to watch.

The Accountant starring Ben Affleck as an autistic mob accountant was incredibly fast paced and a great antidote to American Honey.



Lovesick and Offspring are two delightful comedic offerings (one British and one Australian) that are newish on Netflix.

Nobel is a great Norwegian Noir series that follows a Norwegian Army platoon from duty in Afghanistan back to Norway and intrigue involving charities, oil deals, and government corruption at the highest levels.


Everything else on TV

It’s been sparse choices, but I did manage to watch two very entertaining Christmas specials, both on NBC:

Michael Buble and Tony Bennett’s 90th Birthday Celebration (hosted by Alec Baldwin as Tony Bennett).

For a great article about some of the TV shows you could watch or catch up with, I direct you to John Doyle’s excellent article in the Globe:


Closing Words

Enjoy the last days of this closing week of 2016.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we must step on the scales!!  Give lots of hugs, drive very carefully, and remember to give thanks for all the precious people and memories in our lives.  A very peaceful and healthy New Year’s wish to all our family and friends.  Hugs always, L.


Christmas Part One is here…

Tonight we celebrate Christmas with the Hungarian side of the family in Uxbridge, soon to be followed by parts 2, 3, and 4 with the other side of the family culminating in a dinner in Milton at the home of my daughter-in-law’s parents.  I have been furtively watching Netflix and streaming shows that my son has found for me on the internet in between rounds of entertaining friends (especially my beloved high school girlfriends) and family (beloved nephew and family) this week.  I squeezed in a Trivial Pursuit night with my Fitness Friends and totally enjoyed the latest version of the game (Hasbro Trivial Pursuit 2000S) which has superb Arts and Entertainment questions totally updated for today’s generation. I also took in a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum to see the Chihuly Glass exhibition as well as a breathtaking Wildlife Photography Show.  In the meantime, here are some suggestions for your viewing pleasure over the holidays:


If you have already enjoyed The Crown (about Elizabeth II), Fauda (Israeli series featuring undercover agents in Gaza), Paranoid (British crime series) then I suggest a change of pace with The OA. This mesmerizing series is quite unique in its blend of suspense, surrealism and science fiction elements and I cannot stop watching it.  Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe:

Doyle also recommended Nobel, a new Norwegian Noir series:

After finishing Fauda, I was hungering for more Mossad/Middle East intrigue, so I have started reading the suspense novels of Daniel Silva, beginning with his two most recent The English Spy and The Black Widow.  I am longing for a new James Bond film and in the meantime, spy novels are going to have to suffice.  Silva has written 19 thriller and espionage novels since 1997, many of which share the leading character Gabriel Allon, art restorer and sometime Israeli Mossad agent. Silva is a former journalist with UPI, who worked in San Francisco, Washington and as the Middle East correspondent in Cairo and the Persian Gulf.  I am devouring his novels this week.


Sully stars Tom Hanks as Captain “Sully” Sullenberger who glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson river, saving the lives of all 155 aboard.  However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented (unpresidented?) feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.  A great example of a story well told, where even though we know the ending, we are still on the edge of our seats because of the very convincing way the story is conveyed to us.  Hanks is wonderful in the role and Clint Eastwood does a very understated job of depicting an American hero.

New Blood is a very entertaining British crime series about two Londoners who end up partners in their professional lives as their crime investigations keep intersecting.

I also caught up with the most recent episodes of Chance, Younger and Berlin Station. All worth a look.

Broadcast TV

Designated Survivor (ABC Wednesdays) aired it’s midseason finale this week.  This show really does channel The Manchurian Candidate film in its depiction of a Vice President who may have been put in power by a cabal seeking to take over the USA.  For more on the enduring legacy of this film and the resonance of Trump’s assistance from Russia, please read John Doyle’s column:

Nashville (returning in January CMT/W) had a sneak preview of its upcoming season opening episode on W channel this past week.  Somehow, they’ve taken a show that had a real edge (and great music) and they’ve made it into a soft focus soap opera with gushy good feelings and lots of hugs.  Very strange.

The Walking Dead (Sundays on AMC) has become a little stale for me. Although new villains emerge, the whole show is now so sad.  Just when the survivors think they have found a safe place of refuge, it turns out to be more harrowing than their previous place.  The mid-season finale show ended with a bloodcurdling scene of wanton disembowelling in one of the most shocking scenes ever. And it takes a lot for TWD to top itself.

Still watching my comedy faves like Colbert, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, all of whom will likely be on hiatus over the holidays.  CBS Sunday Morning (9 am every Sunday on CBS) is still my Zen moment where I can tune out the Trumpocalypse and concentrate on feel-good human interest stories and celebrity profiles.

End of Year Lists

Saturday’s Globe had a record number of Best of 2016 lists.  As people are often asking me to put lists together of my favourite movies, tv shows, etc. and I am way too lazy to try and sum up my picks, I’m going to publish the Globe lists (as they have writers who actually get paid to recap their thoughts):

Closing Words

As I have wrapping, cooking and myriad chores to complete today, I am signing off with a very fond Seasons Greeting to all of my friends and family  that you have a wonderful week of feasting, relaxing, and peace.  Stay safe on those treacherous roads and remember to take some time to appreciate the many gifts that we have.  I know this can also be a sad time of year when we reflect on past holidays with family and friends that are no longer with us, so savour those precious memories and raise a glass to our departed.  L’chaim – to life!