It takes very little inducement for me to opt to spend a cozy afternoon and/or evening under a throw on a couch across from the warmth of a flickering TV screen. As a result, I have been sampling a few of the Nordic, French, and Belgian noir series on Netflix while staying warm in the unusually chilly Naples weather.
News Alert: Countdown to the Oscars
Awards season gets under way as the Golden Globes air tonight (Jan 7) at 8 pm on NBC with Seth Meyers hosting. The Me Too movement is expected to be an underlying theme this year with female nominees and presenters having agreed to wear black. The Red Carpet banter about designers may be a little different. Seth Meyers will be closely watched as the Harvey Weinstein/Kevin Spacey et al sexual impropriety scandals are addressed. To read a Dateline Hollywood article on the sexual misconduct scandal and its possible effect on the Golden Globes, here’s an article you may be interested in:
On the Big Screen/Streaming
Victoria and Abdul This charming film with Judi Dench is perfect viewing when you are in need of an afternoon nap! The British accents and period costumes will lull you to sleep before you know it. Dame Judi can now do this sort of period role (her first outing as Queen Victoria was in Mrs. Brown) in her sleep and she is very likely to get an Oscar nomination for her performance. A little known episode in the history of the British Empire.
The Disaster Artist This wacky film about the making of the worst film in history features magnificent performances from both James and David Franco. Based on the making of The Room, you will swoon over the very strange accent of James Franco as the director and star Tommy Wiseau (Polish, maybe?). For passionate film lovers only, as this is such an odd film to watch as they replicate one of the biggest bombs in movie history. Cringe inducingly funny.
Netflix is a treasure trove for crime series. I have thoroughly enjoyed several Nordic noir series from Scandinavia (The Bridge, The Killing, Lava Field and Trapped among them). The British have the crime series genre down to an art with Netflix currently listing everything from Sherlock, Luther, Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Paranoid, The Fall and many others. Scrolling through the British TV series, you can access at least 30 relatively new crime series here. I’ve watched a few French crime series (Spiral, The Revenants, Witnesses, etc) that I really enjoyed, but I don’t think they are in the same league with the British and Scandinavians.
The Frozen Dead, for example, is a rather disappointing French noir miniseries. I did think the acting was kind of awful and by the end, I didn’t much care who did what to whom. Great photography of the French Pyrrhenees in winter!
Lovesick Season 3 is a British comedy series and it is back with six new episodes. I can’t believe I binged on the whole thing. I love these young attractive British people! Especially Johnny Flynn (aka Young Einstein on the National Geographic series Genius). If you’re wondering why Evie is so familiar, Antonia Thomas is a regular (Dr. Claire Browne) on The Good Doctor on ABC.
Black Mirror has returned for its fourth season with 5 new episodes. I can only watch this scary Twilight Zonesque series in small doses because I find it too dark and haunting. I did enjoy the first episode which is a darkly clever Star Trek parody starring Jesse Plemons (Fargo, Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, etc).
Bordertown is another Nordic noir miniseries from Finland. I can’t believe I binged on the whole thing! I absolutely love this series with its very eccentric lead detective who has moved from the bright lights of Helsinki to a small town on the border of Russia for a quieter life. What could go wrong? Why do so many dead bodies pop up in small towns? Three separate cases in the first 11 episodes. Highly addictive, these slow burning Finns.
The End of the Fxxxking World New series alert. Darkly funny and nihilistic British miniseries about two teen misfits on the run. It grows on you!
The Break is a noir crime series from Belgium (like Hotel Beau Sejour which I loved). Too dark, dour and uninteresting to me, so I gave up during the third episode. I found all the characters uncompelling, especially the lead character Peeters, the detective.
Case is a Nordic noir 9-hour miniseries from Iceland about the investigation into the death of a 14-year-old ballerina by hanging. Something is indeed rotten in Reykjavik, where child pornography rings abound and young teenage girls are subject to every kind of abuse. Stay tuned for the multiple twist endings. You’ve got to love the actors in this one who all actually look like real people, especially the lead actress (Steinunn Olina Porsteinsdottir) who is pleasingly plump and who is usually snacking/stress eating on something.
CMT/W in Canada
Nashville returns for its last season. Let the country music melodrama continue and conclude for one last season! Who knew there could be so many car crashes, plane crashes, unrequited love stories, etc. No wonder there are so many hurting songs in the country genre! Rayna James may have died in a tragic car crash last year (don’t be sad as Connie Britton has resurfaced with continuing roles on SMILF and 9-1-1), but the rest of the cast gamely struggles on without her. What will happen to Deacon, the two real-life sisters from Ontario who play Maddie and Daphne, Scarlett and Gunnar, Juliette and Avery, and all the others? Stay tuned as I sense that CMT will resolve all the storylines in a soothing fashion.
CBS All Access/Netflix outside US/other streaming platforms
Star Trek:Discovery returns to continue its first season tonight. As I am one of Jason Isaacs’ biggest fans, I can’t recommend this show highly enough. Enjoy.
Full disclosure re my reminder above for Star Trek: Discovery – I am enjoying The Orville, Seth McFarlane’s Star Trek parody on Fox almost as much! I find it extraordinarily clever and irreverent in its treatment of Star Trek‘s many subjects and themes as it gives them a uniquely McFarlane twist. Season 2 will return for another 14 episodes in 2018.
X Files returns for a new season (11)! So lame. So much dull voiceover exposition. David Duchovny is getting so old! Apparently, the rest of season 11 is much better than episode 1.
9-1-1 is a new series from Ryan Murphy that intends to inspire rather than just shock and appall (Nip and Tuck, American Horror Story, Feud, etc). Amazing cast with Peter Krause, Connie Britton, Angela Basset. More than just another police procedural. It brought a tear to my eye. Connie Britton is a revelation as the emergency services operator.
A New Season of TV shows begins in January
There are many summaries of the new TV series that are starting in 2018. Entertainment Weekly has an extensive listing with all the debuts. Here is an article from the NYTimes about how difficult it is to keep up with TV content these days:
Guillermo Del Toro Watch
While back in Toronto over the holidays, I had a chance to see The Shape of Water by this amazing Mexican director, followed almost immediately after by a trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the exhibition of Del Toro’s collections. Here are two links to articles about his celebrations of fantasy and the macabre:
The NY Times article replicates a visit to the AGO exhibition, which is very handy considering that today is the last day of that show, so it can come to you, rather than you trekking down to the Gallery in subzero conditions:
I loved The Shape of Water which is a creature feature with great heart and soul as a mute woman falls in love with a gill creature from the Amazon. Like much of Del Toro’s work of fantasy, the film is hard to describe, but impossible to forget. I’m rooting for it to take home some awards from tonight’s Golden Globes and the upcoming Oscars.
If you want to fill in some gaps with your Del Toro watching, much of his work can be found on Netflix and other streaming services, including the Victorian Gothic Crimson Peak (starring Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska, Pacific Rim (starring Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam), his Spanish language masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, The Strain, The Devil’s Backbone, Mimic, and several others. His work contains unforgettable images, so be warned if you are not a fan of fantasy and horror.
CBS Sunday Morning had a great show last week, including its In Memoriam salute to the departed. I assume today’s first show of 2018 will be a fresh step forward into the new year. Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert have returned to late night with timely humour, and I assume Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and Bill Maher will not be far behind.
In Treviso Bay, a new year also begins. I am hosting coffee tomorrow for our newcomers; organized mahjong and golf begin again; my husband is forcing me to remember how to play Euchre again; our Bocce League begins for another season. I still haven’t found time to pick up my Pickleball racket, but I have been making it to our gym for our fantastic selection of classes. Wherever you are, enjoy every moment of this wonderful new year! Hope, strength and courage to my many friends facing health challenges at this time.