RIP Robin Williams

Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire
Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams brought much joy and laughter to the world. He touched us all. As we mourn his passing I want to provide a few links to help those dealing with depression and to remind us of what Robin Williams gave to the world with his genius.

Watch This: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I absolutely cannot wait to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The first one was arguably the best movie on planet Earth, and in 2015 we’ll have yet another best movie on planet Earth. Such riches.

Among the riches: the best cast on planet earth, including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Richard Gere, Penelope Wilton and Dev Patel.

John Madden is directing, with the screenplay written by Ol Parker.

I love these people! Wait, am I gushing too much? I’ll restrain myself and simply say it looks good.

Not to take away from The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, because I know it will be good, but I have a question. Why are women in shows about older people always chasing after men? Why isn’t it the other way around? Why aren’t the men chasing after the women? So Richard Gere is handsome and attractive – so what! Aren’t the women gorgeous and attractive, too? What’s up with this trope about women needing to be sexually predatory in their old age if they want to be with someone?

Brain Dump: Short Thoughts on Movies and TV

Brain Dump_ Short Thoughts on Movies and

I’ve had many pop culture thoughts that I’ve neglected to actually write down in the last few weeks. It’s time for a brain dump.

Movies

I absolutely loved Peace, Love and Misunderstanding! This 2011 indie film was directed by Bruce Beresford. It starred Jane Fonda as an aging, free-spirited hippie and Catherine Keener as her daughter. Also featured are Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Elizabeth Olsen, Nat Wolff, Chace Crawford, Kyle MacLachlan, and Rosanna Arquette. It was filmed in the town of Woodstock, New York, where the movie is set.

It was a feel good story about family and love and acceptance. I completely recommend it. If you see it wander past in your Netflix new releases, click play.

I also loved The Immigrant, although it was not a fun romp in any way. This grim slice of reality starred Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner, all of whom gave outstanding performances.

The Immigrant poster

Joaquin Phoenix was particularly powerful as a man who preyed on helpless and desperate immigrant women, tricking them into prostitution for his own gain. I won’t explain the twists in the plot in this tale – there are several – except to say that it brought out some amazing acting from the 3 stars. Again, watch it if you see it in your streaming choices.

TV: The Winners

Hally Berry in Extant
Halle Berry in Extant

I haven’t given an opinion about Extant, starring Halle Berry yet. I’m enjoying this sci-fi drama about astronaut Molly Woods who returns pregnant from a 13 month mission alone in space. The sci-fi aspects of the show are a bit iffy, but the cast is giving it their all. Goran Visnjic plays her husband. Pierce Gagnon plays their son, who happens to be a robot. Grace Gummer and Camryn Manheim also have significant parts in the drama. I hope this one makes it to a second season.

Murder in the First is a a full season story arc involving one crime. It stars Teye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson as cops and Tom Felton as the billionaire murderer they struggle to convict. The characters are particularly well drawn, considering this is just the first season. Again, I hope this one makes it to a second season.

The BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford has me hooked. I’m most of the way through the first season. There are 4 seasons. It’s a period drama with many great female characters. It’s only available on streaming services, since it’s been off the air for a while now.

Stephanie Leonidas as Irisa on Defiance
Stephanie Leonidas as Irisa on Defiance

The women of Defiance, oh my. The character Irisa on Defiance, played by Stephanie Leonidas, is becoming more and more layered. She’s taken on some kind of supernatural power – perhaps alien power would be a more accurate term. It’s given her interesting abilities and she’s attracting followers. She’s starting to remind me of the kind of strong leader that we have in Bo in Lost Girl or Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Defiance has allowed Stahma Tarr, played by Jaime Murray, to evolve into a powerful woman. Julie Benz’s character of Amanda Rosewater is turning out to be full of twists and intricacies. Julie Benz really shines in this role, in ways that are new for her.

TV: The Losers

I gave up on Under the Dome. The story makes no sense in sci-fi terms, no sense in religious terms. None of the characters really grab me. Enough.

I watched one, and only one, episode of Seed and thought it was too stupid to ever watch again. I wanted to watch it because of Amanda Brugel. Zoie Palmer likes Amanda Brugel, so I wanted to watch something with Amanda Brugel in it because – well, I like Zoie Palmer. Sorry, Zoie, this isn’t the place where I’m going to become a fan of Amanda Brugel. I’ll give her another chance some other time.

Shondaland Thursday, AKA Rhimesday, is Coming Soon to Your TV

Let me count the ways that Thursday nights, AKA Rhimesday nights, are going to be amazing when the fall TV season begins.

  1. Shonda Rhimes
  2. Ellen Pompeo and Chandra Wilson and Sara Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew and more
  3. Kerry Washington
  4. Viola Davis

That’s 3 solid hours of women lead drama from Shondaland productions. That’s a night for television, my friends. May I celebrate the fact that two of those leading actresses are women of color? Yes!

What Shondaland will Cause on Rhimesday Nights

On Thursday nights real life will stop. The only things operating in the void will be televisions tuned to ABC and eleventy million tweets about every move on ABC for 3 solid hours.

Those fat cat white male dudes who run ABC and Twitter should be bowing before Shonda Rhimes. Bowing.

Here’s a little preview from Shondaland of where we might be going with Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder.

Woman in Gold: Tatiana Maslany will be Young Helen Mirren

There are no trailers or preview images for Woman in Gold yet. Based on a true story, it’s due to release in 2015. The film is described this way:

Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

The film features Helen Mirren, Tatiana Maslany, and Ryan Reynolds. Tatiana Maslany is playing the younger Maria Altmann, Helen Mirren is playing the older one. In addition to the fact that both of these actresses are impressively talented, there’s also the fact that they look believably similar.

Helen Mirren and Tatiana Maslany
Helen Mirren and Tatiana Maslany

Tatiana Maslany famously has received no Emmy nomination for her stunning performance(s) in Orphan Black, but the people doing the casting for Woman in Gold obviously weren’t worried about casting her as a younger version of the powerhouse Helen Mirren. Dame Mirren has won an Academy Award for Best Actress, four BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, four Emmy Awards, and two Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Awards.

Maslany’s racked up a few awards already, but none so impressive as Dame Mirren’s. Maslany won an ACTRA and a Phillip Borsos Award. For Orphan Black she’s won two Critics’ Choice Television Awards, a Television Critics Award, and a Canadian Screen Award. So far. That freakin’ Emmy better be coming at some point.

Woman in Gold is directed by Simon Curtis and written by Alexi Kaye Campbell. The film also stars Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Charles Dance and Max Irons.

Aquadettes: A Short Documentary

Aquadettes – On Life, Death and Synchronized Swimming is a short documentary about a group of elders on a synchronized swimming team in California. One particular swimmer, 76-year-old Margo Bauer, is featured. Margo has MS and is helped with her condition both by the swimming and by medical marijuana.

The women on this swim team are my kind of women. Recently I’ve joined a YMCA and have been following my doctors orders to get up off my lazy ass (she didn’t word it quite like that) and get more exercise. So the aquatics exercise program at the Y is now part of my weekly schedule and I’m loving it. Plus, I’m feeling stronger, better and less plagued with aches and pains.

This is the complete film. I hope you enjoy it.

The film is by Drea Cooper & Zackary Canepari and is part of the California is a Place series of  documentaries about California. You can read more about Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari and their documentary series in this article at “Filmmaker.”

Recap: Last Tango in Halifax, S2, E6

The final episode of season 2 of Last Tango in Halifax lurches to a grim beginning and works its way through a lot of laughs to a mostly happy season conclusion.

On the farm, the morning after her confession to Caroline (Sarah Lancashire), Gillian (Nicola Walker) prods Caroline awake.

Are you going to tell?
Are you going to tell?

Caroline struggles to sit up. Gillian asks immediately, before Caroline is even upright, if she is going to turn her in to the police.

Beautiful when hungover
Beautiful when hungover

They are both wrecked, hungover, puffy. They look beautiful: real and honest. They conduct a raw, open discussion of the humiliations Eddie did to Gillian. Gillian says, “If I hadn’t done it to him, Caroline, he would have done it to me.”

Breakfast at Muriel's
Breakfast at Muriel’s

Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) spent the night at Muriel’s (Gemma Jones). They’re having breakfast when Murial suggests she’d like to do some sort of hen party for Celia the night before the wedding.

Celia and Alan tease Muriel about wanting a wild night – in Amsterdam – with strippers and lap dancers and pole dancing. Muriel says she doesn’t mind going to Amsterdam for the art galleries. Alan and Celia have a hilarious conversation at Muriel’s expense.

Why did you tell me?
Why did you tell me?

Caroline and Gillian move to the table – nursing their hangovers with tea – still processing Gillian’s confession. Caroline thinks Gillian told her because she needed to tell someone.

I don't know why
I don’t know why

Caroline asks if Gillian wants her to turn her in. “No. No.” Gillian says, “Now I’ve buggered everything up.”

Caroline says, “I’m not going to turn you in.”

Celia and Alan drive away from Muriel’s. In spite of their teasing, they like the idea of a stag night for Alan and a hen night for Celia. Celia even plans to invite Muriel.

Caroline and Gillian drive to the hotel where they left the Land Rover and Caroline’s phone the night before.

Here's Lawrence
Here’s Lawrence back again.

Kate (Nina Sosayna) arrives at Caroline’s house with Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) in tow. He called Kate the night before when John (Tony Gardner) disappeared on him. Kate says he left messages for his mother about where he was but refused to call John.

John offers lame excuses for why he went out, leaving Lawrence alone. The home phone rings.

You bloody idiot
You bloody idiot

Caroline shouts, “Where’s Lawrence!” John says he’s fine, minimizes the whole event and shuts the door in Kate’s face. Kate stares at the door, says, “No problem. Anytime.”

Caroline calls John an idiot. He tells her that Lawrence slept at Kate’s, an idea suggested by William.

Caroline hangs up. Before she leaves the hotel, she turns to Gillian. “I think you’re right about you and Robbie.”

“Yeah, I really like him,” Gillian answers.

“No. You said it could never be a good idea – you and him. Move on. You’re a nice person, you’re a good mother, you work hard. Something appalling happened. Move on. If I’m keeping a secret for you, you need to stay away from him. Surely you can see that.”

When Caroline reaches her home in Harrogate, John is still hanging about fixing soup for Lawrence. John tells her that Judith (Ronni Ancona) won’t get rid of the baby. Caroline says, “You’ll be divorced. You could marry her.” John says that won’t be happening.

May I come inside?
May I come inside?

Caroline gets cleaned up and takes flowers to Kate, to say thank you about Lawrence. Caroline asks Kate if she can come in.

She asks if Kate has a birthing partner (yes, her mum) and if Kate has anyone (no).

Would you give me another chance?
Would you give me another chance?

Caroline wanders nervously through a story approximating what she did the previous night and why she didn’t respond to Lawrence until she gets to her real point. Caroline and Kate had something really nice between them, Caroline says, and asks one more time for Kate to take her back. She promises to do better.

Still no.
Still no.

“No. Thank you.” Kate answers gently. From my seat, I don’t see how she can resist the painful pleading in Caroline’s eyes, but she is firm in her refusal. Kate’s breaking Caroline’s heart and mine, too.

Alan and Harry (Paul Copley) explain an elaborate plan for Alan’s stag night involving an overnight trip on Harry’s boat which will bring them to the hotel by 10 AM. Harry’s boat needs a lot of work before then.

you're not going to spend a night in that crate.
You’re not going to spend a night in that crate.

Celia tells them that her party with Caroline, Gillian and Muriel will be paintballing. She’s not serious, but Harry wants to go to her party.

Later, Caroline and her mom are in the kitchen at Harrogate. Celia suggests maybe John could walk her down the aisle – give her away. Caroline gives all the reasons why that can’t be. She mentions all the tricks Celia has played on John over the years.

That was comical.
That was comical.

Celia has a good laugh remembering the time John snapped all the tendons in his ankle, the time she let all the air out of his tires, and some other wonderful memories which eventually prove to her that John wouldn’t be the best choice for walking her down the aisle.

You can't mention that one.
You can’t mention that one.

Harry and Alan are in Halifax, figuring out their speeches for the wedding and what stories Harry is permitted to tell about Alan.

Gillian enters and says she wants to go to the cemetery tomorrow for her mum’s birthday.

It was my fault the bungalow fell through
It was my fault the bungalow fell through

Next day Alan and Gillian sit on a bench at the cemetery with little Calamity in a carrier. Alan admits that when his renters didn’t have enough money to buy his house, he didn’t have the heart to toss them out to put the house on the market. That’s why the deal on the bungalow fell through. Gillian thinks he’s always been too kind for his own good.

Gillian goes off to the grave of an uncle who was killed in the war. Alan has a graveside chat with his dead wife and says he hopes she approves of him getting wed again. Why didn’t he do this months ago, if it needed doing?

It's a sign
It’s a sign

Like a blessing, a gust of wind blows flowers from a tree where Alan is standing. They rain around him like snow. He catches one blossom in his hand and takes it as a sign.

She's ready
She’s ready

A montage covering several months shows us Harry and Alan working on the boat with Celia’s assistance, shows us Caroline alone and lonely, shows us Gillian alone and lonely, and finally a boat that is ready for use.

Near Christmas, Caroline learns that Kate’s gone to the hospital with some bleeding. Caroline rushes off to be with her. She finds Kate sitting alone in the waiting room. Caroline sits down beside her. They don’t touch.

It might be nothing.
It might be nothing.

Caroline assures Kate that she’s fine. She’s 20+ weeks now. However, four miscarriages would make anybody jumpy and Kate is scared. When they call Kate back she allows Caroline to go with her.

Kate clutches Caroline’s hand as they begin the ultrasound. As Caroline looks at the ultrasound readout with Kate’s hand in hers, we see a light in Caroline’s eyes for the first time in months. Kate’s fine. The baby is fine. Kate asks about sex and learns the baby is female. As Kate relaxes from her fears, she realizes she’s holding Caroline’s hand and drops it, saying, “Sorry.” Out goes the light in Caroline’s eyes.

Caroline, Lawrence, Alan and Celia have dinner in Harrogate. Alan explains that his brother Ted can’t make the wedding because he broke a leg.

Celia wants Caroline to call Kate about the wedding because she offered to play “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” for it. Caroline tells Celia to call Kate herself.

William arrives home from Oxford, with his laundry, and sits down at the table. William’s looking very grown up with a new hair cut. He has a girlfriend he wants to bring to the wedding.

Does she know you're a puff?
Does she know you’re a puff?

Lawrence says, “Does she know you’re a puff?” and William says “I’ve been meaning to break this to you, and I know you’ll be disappointed, but I’m not gay.”

Alan, Lawrence and William whisper some secret plan when the woman are clearing the table. Ted (Timothy West) calls and Alan talks to him about the weather as Gillian sneaks him in Caroline’s door.

I didn't really break my leg
I didn’t really break my leg

Alan jumps up in surprise, hugs his brother. They laugh about how surprised and happy they are that he made it. Ted hugs Celia and grabs her ass. “Always a handful!”

The stag party
The stag party

Alan, Ted, Harry, Raff (Josh Bolt) and Robbie (Dean Andrews) share drinks at Alan’s stag party. As they laugh at silly jokes, Alan suggests to Robbie that he and Gillian should get back together. Raff agrees.

The hen party
The hen party

The hen party is more elegant but just as funny. It includes Celia, Muriel, Caroline and Gillian.

I’ve been waiting for a serious scene between the formidable duo of Anne Reid and Gemma Jones. We finally get it when Caroline and Gillian go off to the restroom together.

Celia tells her sister how miserable her marriage was. Muriel knows that Celia has never forgiven her for Frank but she’s truly glad that Celia is happy now. It might be the first honest conversation Celia’s had with Muriel in years.

The wedding scenes begin with a shot of Kate’s fingers on a piano keyboard. Celia looks lovely but I don’t like what Caroline and Gillian are wearing. (Nicola Walker didn’t like the dress either.) Caroline walks her mom down the aisle.

Getting wed
Getting wed

As Alan and Celia recite their vows (which Anne Reid does with extraordinary meaning, I must say) we see everyone’s reactions to the words. Gillian looks troubled, Caroline is stealing glances at Kate, Kate is stealing glances at Caroline, Robbie’s date looks hopeful while Robbie steals glances at Gillian. Kate plays them out with a ragtime tune and the party begins.

At the party, Caroline gives a beautiful speech that reflects my thoughts about Celia and Alan’s story exactly. Harry gives a charming speech. When it’s Alan’s turn to speak, he takes the microphone and leaves the table. No one knows what he’s doing.

You have a beautiful body
You have a beautiful body

Alan performs a song and dance, complete with backup dancers and singers attired in kilts. The lyrics are “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” The song is perfect – funny and embarrassing – and the party is off to a great start.

Time to dance! Alan and Celia dance every dance. They do dance beautifully together, don’t they?

Kate comes up to Caroline and says she’s going. Kate says, “Have a nice Christmas.”

“How likely is that?” Caroline asks, then immediately regrets it. “Sorry. You . . . you have a nice Christmas, too.” Kate leaves the party.

Wallflowers
Wallflowers

Caroline and Gillian sit at a table, partnerless. It’s a beautiful party, but it’s passing them by. Gillian decides to cut in on Robbie for a dance. “Not Robbie,” says Caroline, but Gillian does it. A brief conversation and Robbie pulls her close.

You are a challenge
You are a challenge

Roberta Flack’s romantic version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” plays and everyone snuggles in a slow dance.

Kate returns. She marches across the dance floor to stand in front of a surprised Caroline. “I got in, shut the door and turned round and came straight back. Do you want to dance?”

Do you want to dance
Do you want to dance?

Their situations reversed, Caroline is the insecure one now. She wants to know if this is “forever” and Kate quips, “forever’s a mighty long time.”

finally
Caroline’s coming out kiss.

The moment they’re close and touching, they kiss. A long, lingering, very public kiss. Lawrence covers his eyes, Gillian smiles, William beams, Muriel isn’t appalled, Alan is happy, and Celia groans. Caroline and Kate are oblivious to anything but each other.

There’s a beautiful exterior shot of the hotel, laced with snow early the next morning – Christmas day – and a room tour of the still snoozing guests.

The renewly wed
The renewly wed

Alan and Celia hold hands as they spoon.

A single room
Just one room

Caroline and Kate finally shared a room at the hotel.

Cut for a beat to John and Judith, who are passed out on Judith’s couch with empty bottles littering the table in front of them.

What have I done?
What have I done?

Gillian wakes up in the hotel with Robbie and wonders what fresh hell she’s gotten herself into now.

Season 2 closes with smiles, some story lines tied up with gaily colored ribbons, and a few tempting issues to make us eager for season 3.

Bravo. Bravo to the cast and crew. Bravo to Sally Wainwright for her wonderful storytelling. Bravo!

How We Watch TV (Infographic)

This infographic suggests that we have a lot of channels but we watch very few. Take a look and then let’s talk about the channels you watch and how you fit into the statistics on the infographic.

How America Is Watching TV, an Infographic by Koeppel Direct

I pay for 120 channels. Here are the channels I watch.

  1. ABC Family
  2. FX
  3. Lifetime
  4. Syfy
  5. TNT
  6. TV Land
  7. USA
  8. ABC
  9. NBC
  10. CBS
  11. FOX
  12. PBS

Wow, only 12. If I had them in my package, I’d watch WGN (for the new show Manhattan) and BBC America (for Orphan Black) and Bravo (for Inside The Actor’s Studio). Of course, if I had them, I’d watch some things on HBO and Showtime.

It’s cheaper for me to buy Orphan Black on iTunes than it is to get a package that includes BBC America. The others, I’ll do without. I also have Netflix.

It would be wonderful if you could get only the channels you want. Wouldn’t that be the greatest?

How many channels do you actually watch out of what you pay for?

How much of your TV time is spent watching is live TV – commercials and all – vs. watching later and skipping the commercials? I’d say I watch about 30% of what I watch off my DVR, and I fast forward through the commercials.

I have one TV. How about you?

Do you watch things on your computer or tablet? I do. Frequently. I find I can see it better when it’s close up and on a high resolution screen. The old eyes ain’t what they used to be.

How do your habits match up with the statistics in the infographic?

TV with remote image via Flickr

Watch This: Trailer for A Second Chance

The Danish film A Second Chance (En Chance Til) will premier at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival. It’s a film from Academy Award winning director Suzanne Bier.

Based on the trailer, the film looks powerful and gut-wrenching. The film stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ulrich Thomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Maria Bonnevie.

A police officer steals a child from drug-addicted parents at a crime scene. His wife bonds with the child and threatens to kill herself if he returns the child to the real parents. It looks complicated and fraught and full of many of the deep, meaningful emotions that make me a fan of many Danish films.

It will be a while before this film reaches any likely places to view it in the U.S. – probably on a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon. It looks excellent. I hope it becomes available to Americans soon.

A Second Chance Photo by Henrik Petit

Watch This: Our Leader the Mockingjay

A new trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 released. Looks like Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is getting herself an ragtag army and a rebellion whether she wants one or not. The suggested hashtag from the trailer is #OurLeaderTheMockingjay.

I caught a glimpse of Julianne Moore in this trailer. She’s a nice addition to The Hunger Games franchise. She’s a nice addition to anything.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is scheduled for release in November. What a good way to spend the Thanksgiving weekend. I’m ready to drop my dollars going to see this female-led drama. What about you?