What We Watched – March and April 2021

Molly’s Game (leaving Netflix in March 2021)
Linda’s recommendation: Maybe
It’s a good story but I didn’t resonate with the lead actress, and I found the Aaron Sorkin verbal gymnastics, which I usually love, to be clutter.

Stray (YouTube)
Linda’s recommendation: No
About a group of stray dogs in Istanbul. Ridiculous. Prompts me to say, again, that you are not a film maker just because you have a video camera. Make an effort people!

Nomadland (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
A beautiful film, and unexpected. Less about older people’s narrowing employment opportunities, and more about the choices we make. I could watch Frances McDormand all day long. 

Sound of Metal (Amazon)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
A riveting film about a man learning to be deaf, and to accept his life. Riz Abmed and Paul Raci give outstanding performances. 

Sky Ladder : The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Maybe
A fairly interesting documentary about a Chinese artist whose medium is fireworks. Not for everyone. 

Wolfwalkers (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
A beautiful animated film about the power of girls, and women. 

THANKS by W. S. Merwin

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is


—W. S. Merwin (with my thanks to Rob Brezsny)

What We Watched – January and February 2021

Lupin (Netflix, France, 2021)
Linda’s recommendation: Definite Yes
These best thing about this series is that it is so much FUN to watch. The “gentleman burglar” is not a really bad guy nor a wholly good one. He is ahead of everyone but just by one step; wily, rather than playing a long complex con that is difficult to follow. The writing and editing are tight, the pace is snappy. I’ve seen five of the first ten episodes, and enjoyed it very much.

Into the Wild (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
Based on the book by Jon Krakauer, and a true story, this film is a story well told. A rare case where I thought the film superior to the book. Great acting by both big and small name cast.

The Professor and the Madman (The Virtual State)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes but no hurry
Sean Penn and Mel Gibson star in this true historical drama about the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary. Set in the middle of the 19th century, it is a little confused about what kind of movie it wants to be, but overall the story is good.

76 Days
(The Virtual State)
Linda’s recommendation: Meh
The first 76 days of the pandemic in a hospital in Wuhan, China shot documentary style. No added commentary or framework was provided; I didn’t really understand this film.

The Prestige (Hulu, movie)
Linda’s recommendation: No
Great cast that delivers a muddled, confusing, and ultimately unbelievable story. Mixes drama and supernatural with a silly result, it is too long and there is too much muttering.

High Fidelity (Hulu, 10 episodes)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
I loved the original with John Cusak, and was surprised at how good this remake was. A great ensemble cast mostly unknown to me – I enjoyed performances by Zoe Kravitz, David H. Holmes, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Jake Lacy. The emotion I felt when this ten episode ‘series’ ended was exactly the same as after the original ended – a bittersweet, happy-sad kind of feeling. I enjoyed it.

The Morning Show (AppleTV, 10 episodes)
Linda’s recommendation: Definite Yes
This show captures exactly how it feels to work in a big corporation, both good and bad. Reveals the subtleties of #MeToo experience. I really enjoyed watching the characters reveal themselves.

Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself (Hulu)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes, Yes, HELL YES
This was fabulous. I agree with the comment that this is “exceedingly difficult to categorize, but at its core it is about identity and how we see ourselves compared to how we are seen by others.” So good, I’d say if you don’t have Hulu, get it now so you can watch this 90 minute show immediately.

Gran Torino (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Okay
Typical Clint Eastwood vehicle where he doesn’t seem capable of speaking, but this film has a warm heart and was enjoyable.

Doubt (AppleTV)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Amy Adams in a perfect representation of 1950’s Catholic life. I enjoyed the flashback, and the dilemma.

The Dig (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
I enjoyed this lyrically-paced film about a group of people whose lives intersect with an archeology project.

What We Watched – November and December 2020

The Way (2012)
Linda’s recommendation: Surprising Yes
This Estevez family project is unexpectedly touching, telling the story of a father making the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in place of his son.

Glory (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Okay
The story of the black soldiers of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. Told from the perspective of the white commanders it is overly dramatically and romantic IMO. The cinematography and a young Denzel Washington are high points.

This Is Us (NBC on Hulu)
Linda’s recommendation: Perfect for someone, but not for me.
A long, melodramatic soap opera. 18 episodes in each season is just too long. My feeling is if you can’t tell your story in two seasons of six episodes each (plus a Christmas special) then your script needs editing. That’s what television watching in the U.K. will teach you. Ultimately too much is just so boring.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Linda’s recommendation: Awful
I have never seen this movie with Steve Martin and John Candy, directed by John Hughes, so we decided to watch it on Thanksgiving day. I could not believe how bad it was. Not even remotely funny.

The Farewell (2019 Amazon Prime Video)
Linda’s recommendation: Sweet and innocent
Set mostly in present day China, this story about an extended family’s drama is fun to follow along with.

Uncle Frank (Amazon Prime Video)
Linda’s recommendation: Enjoyable with some caveats
Directed by Alan Ball, with some terrific acting by Paul Bettany. Best use of cigarettes as prop. A coming out story from the 1960’s and focussed on the South.

An Education (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Predictable but good
Required viewing for all 16 year olds. Set in Twickenham in 1961, this is the classic dilemma about choosing to own your own future or taking the fun, easy way forward before you understand how un-fun and not easy that choice is. Carey Mulligan is excellent.

Mud (Hulu)
Linda’s recommendation: I enjoyed this
Matthew McConaughey plays Mud, a fugitive hiding out on a remote island who is discovered, and then assisted, by two young boys.

Covid Winter Nights

Frost on the window

My wife’s breath is the metronome of my night,
playing a slow steady march,
the melody for my long sleepless nights.
Air bubbles clang through the hot water radiators,
the periodic pump jump,
the faint roar of the boiler kicking in.

Outside the wind relentlessly pushes from the west,
the coyotes sing over some small win,
and some where very faintly, a cock crows,
Pointing to a future whose tune is impossible to hear.

What We Watched – September and October 2020

Cheers and Frasier (every episode over 11 seasons)
Linda’s recommendation: Watch if you are desperate
Much misogyny, very out of date, and also still funny. (Frasier has a particularly strong ensemble cast.)

Days of Heaven (Sam Shepard and Richard Gere directed by Terrence Malik)
Linda’s recommendation: Entertaining
A thin excuse of a story, narrated by a child with an inaudible voice. Still, Richard Gere and Sam Shepard 🙂 A visually beautiful film with gorgeous music about two grifters traveling with some migrant workers in the 1930’s. Made in 1978.

The Last Dance (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Mostly fun to watch
A 10-part miniseries made in 2020 with mostly 1987 footage about Michael Jordan, with particular focus on his last season with the Chicago Bulls. It’s about five episodes too long but I learned alot of basketball basics. Michael Jordan really could fly jump! Scottie Pippen got locked into a bad contract, and found ways to strike back! Dennis Rodman really was a big time, serious basketball player (well, for a few years anyway)! Phil Jackson was a zen-master-turned-player-turned-coach who used Native American and new age practices with the team! Steve Kerr got his coaching ideas by playing on that team! Good background info if you are interested in the game but don’t know how to educate yourself about it.

Hacking Your Mind (PBS)
Linda’s recommendation: Must watch
Social economists explain how you really make decisions, including who to vote for. Interesting and important. Bottom line: we are actually dumber than monkeys.

Emily in Paris (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Si banal et vide de sens
This is from the director of Sex and the City so I should have known what to expect. This is basically the story of a particular type of ugly American, one that is better dressed than most.

My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes!
An extremely beautiful and creative film on many different levels. Craig Foster’s free diving skill is amazing, but the relationship he builds with this creature is inspiring. You won’t see many films like this.

London Spy (Netflix, 5 episodes)
Linda’s recommendation: Good but uneven
Sometimes this had me on the edge of my seat; other times I was completely lost and confused. It’s different than any thriller I have seen before – lots of style and atmosphere but a plot that is hard to follow. I’d recommend it with the caveat that you read a recap or two after each episode so you are clear on all the unspoken plot points. High points are Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: Good
Not the tightest writing I have seen from Aaron Sorkin, but very watchable with a strong ensemble cast. I liked the way he used archival footage. If you have never heard of the Chicago 7, I recommend obtaining a bit of background first, because this film moves fast right from the beginning.

Say Yes

This article is a timely reminder of something we instinctively know is true: negativity is physically and emotionally bad for you. Proven over and over again: “Positive words and thoughts propel the motivational centers of the brain into action and help us build resilience when we are faced with problems.” Yes is the best!