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Archive for the ‘Shows’ Category

One after another, the more sensational shows were failing me–Shadow and Bone, fascinating though it was, suddenly featured a magical device FUSED TO THE HEROINE’S COLLAR BONES, which protruded through her skin in a particularly grisly way. UGH. I couldn’t keep watching. And then, The Nevers over on HBO sank into black horror, and even though the costumes and sets are simply lovely, I can’t watch horror. And the ever dependable Mentalist, with its astonishingly beautiful consultant Patrick Jane–

–started dipping into idiotic plot territory (Head of Important Research Facility: “We’re curing evil!”)
So I turned to natural history, as one does. I had read about My Octopus Teacher, and was intrigued.
Friends, I clicked the button!

Craig Foster is a South African naturalist and film maker, who decided that free diving into the chilly kelp forest by his home near Cape Town every day for a year would mend his troubled heart.
And it did.
That he can hold his breath for SIX MINUTES (the norm is something like 30 seconds) made this extraordinary routine possible. And what inspired him to do something so crazy? Well, he met a little octopus, a creature that is basically “a snail without a shell” as he put it. But when he first spots her, the barmy creature is lying about in the mazy kelp–wearing a jaunty assortment of shells and rocks which completely covers her.

He is charmed, and decides to visit her every day–QUITE an undertaking. To even find her in that stretch of ocean is a feat. But he persists, and eventually she comes to trust him. Her life is stressful and dangerous–at some point, Craig looks about and notices that just about every crack in the rocks hides a pajama shark: creatures who enthusiastically feed on octopus (among other delicacies). And in fact, there is a terrible moment when one of the vile predators almost gets her–and tears off one of her arms. Craig is anguished, but knows that he must not help her, much as he wants to. She hides out in her den, pale and almost dead–but she revives, and grows a new arm! And later on we see that covering herself with shells is actually not a sprightly act of vanity but deadly serious protection–she clings desperately to her impromptu suit of armor during a ghastly attack by another pajama shark, who pounds her against the rock in an effort to get at her. But he fails!
Life is short for an octopus–one year is all she gets. After mating, she lays her eggs and dies. And her body is carried away by yet another pajama shark.
Craig manages not to weep as he tells the interviewer about his year with the brave little octopus.
Perhaps octopuses are not lovely to our human eyes, but they are so clever and so valiant. A fine story!

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Tale as old as time..

There are many film versions of Beauty and the Beast, starting with the excellent 1946 version by Cocteau, starring Jean Marais as the melancholy beast.FAMOUS STORY: Marlene Dietrich watched the first screening–and, startled when the beast turned into the Handsome Prince, she cried–“Where is my beautiful beast?”

AND of course there is the wonderful 1991 Disney cartoon–a masterpiece.

AND, there is the 2017 live action version, which I just watched. And I must admit that despite the silliness and the overblown CGI, I loved it.

The beast–played by Dan Stevens in a 40 pound muscle suit, big hair, AND stilts–is quite fabulous–though, as in previous iterations, much less fab once transformed into a sweet fellow in blue satin jacket and blonde wig.
But no doubt easier to live happily ever after with.

The first thing I looked up was, did the stars actually sing?

And the short answer is YES, they did.
BUT the reason they sounded so swell is a devilish device called Auto-Tune, which magically removes any false notes and enhances the sound of their voices. So Emma Watson’s Belle had a clear and pure tone–which is unreal, but really, most of us are too busy enjoying the charming story to bother with such details.
NOT the audio experts of course, who came down on it like a ton of bricks, but OH FIE, who cares about them.
And I must add that Audra McDonald (as Madame Garderobe) needed NO SUCH augmentation–her voice is magnificent as always.

This movie was VERY SUCCESSFUL, and easily made back the fabulous sums it took to create it. And despite its flaws (which Google will be happy to enumerate for you) I enjoyed it immensely. Including Emma Thompson’s lovely rendition of Tale as Old as Time–she made a fine Mrs. Potts, whatever people might say about Auto-Tune.

Well done once again, Disney!

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For the last couple of nights I have been captivated by one of the most wonderful movies in the world: My Fair Lady. The songs are all deeply familiar: when I was a child, we had the album of the 1956 show, and played it OFTEN.

The movie was faithful to the show, except that Eliza was played by Audrey Hepburn instead of Julie Andrews –who was pregnant and turned down the role, according to one account. Another said that the studio wanted a bigger star. WHATEVER. Audrey is very beautiful, though her singing was all dubbed.
Cecil Beaton’s famous costumes are AB FAB: Eliza’s magnificent Ascot outfit, bought by Debbie Reynolds for $100,000 back in the 1970’s, recently sold for 4.4 MILLION DOLLARS.

Which does seem rather dear for a DRESS. Of course, there’s the hat and parasol too…
But the whole Ascot scene is simply priceless–the stunning black and white costumes, and Eliza’s beautifully pronounced and completely outrageous Small Talk in which she frankly admits that “gin was mother’s milk” for her aunt. Thus she bewitches the ridiculously handsome Freddy Eynsford-Hill.
And this infatuated fellow is played by none other than JEREMY BRETT, AKA Sherlock Holmes.

He was considerably younger when he walked down the street where she lived.

And best of them all is Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins, with his hooded eyes and magnificent arrogance. WHAT A JERK the man is, and yet, we can’t help but join Eliza in loving him.

I LOVED his delightfully malicious imagining of her comeuppance–when she hammers at his door in tears and rags:
“Poor Eliza. How simply frightful!
How humiliating! …….How…. DELIGHTFUL!”

He’d grown accustomed to her face, you see.

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Coco

Once again I resolutely decided to cancel my subscription to Grim Overlord Disney, who so casually fired an actress for her political opinions.
But then–once again….there was Pixar. Such brilliant movies, such dazzling technical virtuosity and bright intelligence. AND such a loving heart.
So, I watched Coco again. It is a simply splendid movie about a little Mexican boy and the Día de los Muertos–WHAT an opportunity for the artists to go KRAZY with elaborately clothed and decorated skeletons.

Which apparently forced Pixar to completely revamp their software so that the clothes worked on bones instead of flesh.
The opening credits are cleverly created through papel picado, those decorative Mexican cutouts that we have all seen in restaurants and bars. While sipping a margarita–or possibly, a refreshing horchata.

On that one precious day of the year, Miguel can enter the wild world of the dead–a booming and colorful metropolis. Plot happens, all skillfully designed and charming to watch. We learn the terrible truth that when someone is forgotten on earth, that person fades to nothing in the world of the dead. That person NO LONGER EXISTS.

But thanks to Miguel, this doesn’t happen to his great great grandfather. And though we weep for the death of Coco, his beloved great grandmother, yet we rejoice that Miguel was able to comfort her.

And how wonderful to live, however briefly, in a world where our beloved dead can visit us, on that one blessed day of the year.

Sigh.
Well friends, I will allow that rampaging monster to continue to collect my $6.99 a month. For the sake of Pixar.

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These days I am in thrall to the Discovery of Witches series, watching it every night and LISTENING TO the book on my evening walks. If I’m not on the sofa by 8 or so, Sophy comes looking for me. And then I pour myself a tiny wee dram, and settle down. Bertie hastens in to take his place beside me.
SO, what does it begin with, I ask the cats–?

OH YES, it begins with absence and desire.

And then? Well, it ALSO begins with blood and fear.

AND AFTER THAT?
It begins with A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES!
Yay! Onto the excellent opening sequence, with drops of blood falling into a bowl, and fabulous microscopes and horses galloping across a beach–whew.
I LOVE this show.
Honesty compels me to admit that this is not my first viewing. I am now onto the 8th episode in the second season, and there are only two more. Season three has been filmed but will not be available to the ardent fans till the end of the year.
The handsome vampire and his lovely witch TIME TRAVEL! Into 16th century England! I learned that the actress who plays the witch had just had a baby before filming on the second series began, and somehow the costume designers managed to fashion the elaborate Elizabethan outfits in a way that allowed her to nurse her baby in between scenes.

The handsome vampire and his colleagues mostly wear tight trousers and high boots–not historically correct perhaps but VERY popular with the ladies.
As I said, I LOVE this show.

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The play’s the thing

I am proud to report that I resisted the shaming impulse to watch a gazillion dollar comic book extravaganza last night–and managed to persuade my proud spirit to relish a Shakespeare play instead!
It was an ancient BBC Comedy of Errors, which addressed the constant audience whinging about the two sets of twins not looking alike by having each set played by the same person. However this ploy was unfortunately not successful, as the never satisfied audiences NOW complained that they couldn’t tell which character he was portraying, the Syracusan or the Ephesian. And as each set of twins is dressed alike, I have to agree.
However, the young master(s) had a familiar look–and by golly, it was Michael Kitchen, well known to us as Mr. Foyle of Foyle’s War–but heavens, he is a youthful 35 in this show!
And guess who played his servant(s)–?
Why, ROGER DALTRY! Yes, the lead singer of the Who disported himself on stage as a youth.

Thus was virtue rewarded!

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It appears that I am unfortunately now addicted to low brow entertainment: I have just watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Over the course of a few days, I might add–this movie is FOUR HOURS LONG. And just to make the heroic task of watching such a behemoth even more heroic, HBO Max refused to resume the show where I left it. Each night–cursing vehemently–I had to press the fast forward button until it finally reached the right place.
Why did I watch such a thing?
Because: HENRY CAVILL.

MY, he is a beautiful man.
Though we have to wait for almost 3 hours before we can lay eyes on that famous 8 pack–seeing as Superman is DEAD (having made the final sacrifice in order to SAVE THE WORLD in the previous movie) and has to be reanimated using Very Special Outer Space Device.
And once again, the movie makers forgot to turn on the lights. Sigh. They imagine that this brings an aspect of brooding danger and gathering storm.
IT DOESN’T.
It just looks like they forgot to turn the lights on. At one point Lois Lane wakes up–and she DOES turn on a light! But it seems to be a 10 watt bulb.
There are a couple good lines: Questioned as to his superpower, Batman simply replies: “I’m rich.” HAhaHA! And his butler is played by Jeremy Irons! So there’s that.
When Superman is resurrected, it turns out he has forgotten all about being a good guy and so he starts attacking everyone!–but then Lois shows up and the big guy melts. Love!
And one is able to bear the sheer horror of his being such a jerk because in all the excitement he forgot to put on his shirt–though thank goodness he managed to don some elegant black pants. Being resurrected: so demanding.

As I said, he is a beautiful fellow. Who has spent many tedious hours in the gym for our benefit.
.

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By Grabthar’s Hammer!

I succumbed to low temptation and watched Galaxy Quest again. This idiotic film is over 20 years old but still has the power to make me chortle. Remember Alan Rickman as the Spock character? “I was an actor once, damn it. Now look at me!” Rickman hated sci-fi, but was so amused by the script that he agreed to play the part. And Sigourney Weaver as the gorgeous girl: “My TV Guide interview was six paragraphs about my boobs and how they fit into my suit! No one even bothered to ask what I do on the show.” And the wonderful Thermians, those neatly suited (as long as they have their Appearance Generators on) aliens. So earnest, so kindly!

And so many tentacles when their Generators fail!

Once I was driving by the Convention Center and noted scores of people in ludicrous garments strolling about–no, it wasn’t Halloween, it was some kind of comic or sci-fi convention. Galaxy Quest starts and ends in one of these events, with fans–meticulously dressed as their idols–eagerly filling the seats. These conventions are HUGE, and though interrupted by the pandemic, they are bravely persevering–planning to delight the fans maybe by July–August? There are hundreds of such shows and tickets for the big ones sell out immediately. While you and I are probably not counting the days until the next one, be assured that many of our fellows are.
Galaxy Quest is a charming good natured movie, and while not perhaps intellectually challenging it is certainly entertaining.
However, one cannot always be indulging in such low brow stuff! Next on the schedule: 1) La Fanciulla del West, and 2) Seven Samurai.
But first, Thor Ragnarok!
We are none of us perfect.

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OK, this one is emphatically NOT Shakespeare. But such fun! Everybody loved the original Coming to America of 20 years ago, and this sequel is more of the same–a sweet natured film, with lots of completely wild costumes, and much ridiculous waggery to make you smile. No souls are seared, no blood is shed, no babies or puppies harmed–in short, a lovable entertainment.
We start in Zamunda, which looks very much like America but is in Africa! We know this because there are lions and giraffes and elephants wandering about the garden. Eddie Murphy is engaging in a martial arts exercise with his three lovely daughters! They flatten him, in a loving way. But then sad news–his father is dying. And it turns out that Eddie unwittingly sired a son when he was in America (he was drugged, we do NOT blame him a bit). So off he goes to find and bring back Jermaine Fowler. Who luckily is a very good young man, who insists on bringing his mom–a VERY vulgar lady but with a heart of gold–and his uncle who was like a father to him. Eventually even the wonderful barber shop guys (all played by Eddie and Arsenio Hall, a tour de force) join the throngs at the Zamunda palace for the fabulous wedding party that ends the show. At which Wesley Snipes (playing the odious General Izzi from neighboring country Nextdorio) does a FABULOUS dance, elegantly dressed in a kilt, suggestively swishing the long tail on his sporran.

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Brave Experiment Fails

Feeling that perhaps it was time to move on from romantic witches and kiddy flicks, I bravely tried two grown up films. Oddly, both movies feature women who disappear in Berlin. And neither, I regret to say, charmed me.

First I watched a show called Unorthodox, a German-American show–mostly in Yiddish!–which is about a young woman fleeing her Hasidic community in Brooklyn to go live in Berlin. There were some fascinating scenes of her life in Brooklyn–fascinating, that is, in the way one of those Animal Planet shows is fascinating, which goes on for instance, about the feeding habits of bears (wow, who knew they ate lily bulbs!) But then she’s off to Germany, throwing her sheitel (=wig) in the lake, and…sigh. As Nanny Ogg said about Granny Weatherwax in Witches Abroad, “Esme is getting to act just like a foreigner, yesterday she took her shawl off, next thing it will be dancing on tables.” Soon enough, Esty will daringly apply lipstick! Her husband is something of a schlemiel, but he loves her and misses her. I understand he will be rushing off after her, but I will not be there to watch his inevitable failure. This show got grand reviews, and maybe you’ll love it! Say hello from me if so.

Then I turned to a sci-fi noir film called Mute. We start with a long dreamy view of a floating boy almost drowning in a lake–and his stern Amish mama does not allow the doctors to do some kind of surgery so that the boy loses the ability to speak!
See, this was when a sensible person would have shut it down and gone to bed.
However, I valiantly soldiered on.
Leo, now grown up, is a bartender in a Berlin strip club, and is in love with one of the waitresses. Berlin is just like LA in Bladerunner, huge electric signs blinking on and off, lots of little zingy spaceships zipping about, and a great deal of NOISE. There are gangsters, there is a nasty pimp, there are immoral American surgeons–and then, the girl disappears, Leo starts smashing things up with the leg of a carved bed he’s been making for the girl–and I thought, I AM HATING THIS.

So, it’s back to the romantic witches and kiddy flicks for me.

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