Category Archives: Television/DVD review

Some Dads

Despite its success in the US, ‘This Life’ never caught on in Oz. One of our free-to-air commercial networks thought they must have been on a winner, given its three Emmys (to date) and scores of nominations, so they screened it. But it didn’t gel with the local audience and was soon moved from prime time to the nether regions of the subsidiary channels, seemingly only shown when they needed a filler. Leigh and I became attached to the series early in the piece and managed to watch most of two seasons before it disappeared completely. There are now four seasons of it, with a fifth to follow, so it is good news that Amazon Prime has picked it up. As to whether my lovely lady and I will hop back on, given the plethora of quality tele to be had on various platforms, remains to be seen, but it is a very worthy and entertaining series.

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As to what it’s all about, Ian Cuthberson describes it adequately in his short column which follows. In it he also compares Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack Pearson as a father to his own. The Jack character is one of the major attractions of the show, with Milo V winning a coveted Emmy for leading male actor for such is the impact the role has had in home territory. This is remarkable given he is dead for large chunks of the show. The early adoption of Randall as the black triplet is a tad hard to swallow but, gee, the series is a great depiction of family dynamics – specifically American family dynamics. That was, perhaps, its problem for Australian audiences. But if you have Prime, you could do worse.

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Cuthbertson’s father’s attitude to his child(ren?) is miles away from Jack’s. It’s more akin to Sam Neill’s old man. He was very much ‘old school’ too – all matters of parenting, excepting perhaps disciplining, left up to the wife. I had the pleasure of my own dear mother’s company during a recent stay at Sisters Beach so, looking for a show she may be interested in that was new to her, I introduced her to ‘Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery’. Now into its seventh season – I’m looking forward to Bill Bryson this week – we went back into ABCiView and found Sam. I’d already seen it before, but I know Nan is a fan of the NZ actor. It was just as poignant second time around. Sam gets quite emotional recounting his father’s aloofness. He is whimsical as he acts out some of the defining scenes of his encounters with his dad – encounters being a word chosen carefully. His father could never bring himself to use the ‘l’ word – and it was only after the death of the man who could show no affection that Sam realises how deep his father’s love was. His trip down memory lane is Episode 1 from Season 5. If you haven’t seen it already, take your own trip into iView before it disappears.

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And then, for a complete contrast, we come to David Melrose. The Cumberbatch, as the titular Patrick (‘Patrick Melrose’, ABCiView) steals the show with a BAFTA-worthy performance, but almost as excellent was Hugo Weaving as Patrick’s chilling pa. Initially he is absolutely odious and dissolute. If you can survive the opening episode – and do try for you’ll be richly rewarded – we discover that he’s even worse. He’s depraved. Poor young Patrick didn’t stand a chance, considering his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is emotionally all over the shop as well. For me, ‘Patrick Melrose’ is one of the year’s best. I relished the dinner party from hell, starring an out of control Princess Margaret.

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No father, not even Jack, is perfect – but David doesn’t even give lip service to fatherhood. Most of us menfolk will have a go at being the best we can possibly be. Heaven knows I adored my two – still do. I also delight, now, in sitting back and watching my son and son-in-law give a red hot go at being the best fathers they can possibly be too.

Ian Cuthbertson on Jack Pearson = https://www.smh.com.au/culture/tv-and-radio/good-dad-jack-pearson-rings-true-but-sadly-not-for-everyone-20191015-p530wy.html

For This Is Us = https://www.amazon.com/This-is-Us-Season-1/dp/B01LFWT6FQ

For Julia Zemeiro Home Delivery Sam Neill = https://iview.abc.net.au/show/julia-zemiro-s-home-delivery/series/5/video/LE1661H004S00

For Patrick Melrose = https://iview.abc.net.au/show/patrick-melrose

Juliet at Fifty-five

Breasts. Beautiful, proud, fulsome and unfettered. These weren’t the bosoms of some perky young starlet willing to expose her pert assets for the furtherment of her carer. These were breasts that were well lived and you’d expect, well loved. These were breasts more than half way through their life journey, exposed in the opening sequence to ‘Let the Sunshine In’. They were startling and gorgeous. I will admit, they were bewitching and magnetic to this viewer. But sadly, they were by far the best thing about this very French 2017 offering from director Claire Denis. Their possessor is Isabelle, supposedly an artist who spends much of her time scouring Paris for love.

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She’s played by a true icon of the silver screens of her country and world wide. She, today, at 55, remains as dazzling as she ever was in such films as ‘Chocolat’, ‘The English Patient’ and most memorably, 1988’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’. Seeing her in that, one is infatuated for life. She can play any role, taking it in her stride. Obviously, as well, she likes to stretch herself. She’s certainly no shrinking violet. She’s strong and womanly.

Although ‘Let the Sunshine In’ received praise in some quarters with the star receiving a César Award (French Oscars) nomination for her performance, I really struggled to remain with it. Her initial lover is bullish and repugnant. Another, far more youthful, is full of himself. Yet another is her ex whom she picks a silly argument with over his performance in the sack. It’s obvious she’s looking for love in all the wrong places. Eventually her poor judgement and lack of success starts playing with her mind. The movie becomes ridiculous when the venerable Depardieu enters to sprout some psycho-babble at her in a monologue that well and truly outstays its welcome. Of course Juliet Binoche is always wonderful, but my tip for you is to seek out, instead of the above (which is on Netflix), ‘Who You Think I Am’ which is, like those aforementioned breasts, just magnificent.

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Who You Think I Am’ has similarities to the above in that Binoche’s role here is Claire, an academic from the City of Light, reeling from a divorce and also seeking a new partner in life and love. Ex hubby (played by another French notable in Charles Berling) has had a dose of the Peter Pans and leaves his perfectly stunning wife for a younger model. Claire figures what’s good for the goose and at movie’s start she’s shacked up with the much younger Ludo. To him she’s simply a cougar. Claire’s beginning to feel it’s something more permanent. When he susses this she finds she’s again ditched, so in response she turns her attention to Ludo’s sensitive, still much younger, room mate in Alex (François Civil). Now what could be more harmless than a little on-line ‘cat-fishing’? (If you’re unaware of this procedure, look it up. I did.) Her attempt to become who she is not provides, at first, an outlet for her lovelessness, but then becomes something with quite catastrophic implications. Or does it? This will keep you guessing till the end, with several ‘I didn’t see that coming’ twists thrown in. It’s very, very clever and has much to say about the pitfalls for any of us who try to fight the invisibility that comes with the ageing process. See it on any platform you can.

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What I know about JB is that she’s ageing gloriously. There’s certainly no invisibility with her.

Trailer ‘Let the Sunshine In’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ps_Sau7xqQY

Trailer ”’Who You Think I Am’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShwXIOszzIM

Do yourself a favour with this duo

The flaw, as Callaghan states below, stands out like a sore thumb, but it’s the only blemish in this mesmerising series with one brilliant, but bad, bad bully at its core. The Australians were just too Australian and against the evidence, too limp. Wife Beth (Siena Miller) is prepared to forgive almost anything of her husband, Roger Ailes, with employees Gretchen Carlson and Laurie Luhn (Naomi Watts and Annabelle Wallis), in the end, prepared not to. But ‘The Loudest Voice’ is all about Russell Crowe as the eventually disgraced high-flyer. He’s barely recognisable with his fat suit and bonus prosthetics. On screen he is compulsively despicable in so much that he does. Roger is the kingmaker; King of Fox News and king misogynist. He’s repugnant with his fondling of and thrusting at the female staff. They live in fear of what he can do to their careers if they don’t give him what he demands as his his right. He’s horrible, as well, with his far right views, hatred of Obama and love of Trump. But for all this, you can’t take your eyes off him. Not since ‘The Good Guys’ have I ‘enjoyed’ a Crowe performance more. For me it’ll be one of the year’s highlights and I suggest it’s well worth trialing Stan for it alone.

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Jonathan Groff isn’t quite in the same league as Crowe with his CV, but has had prominent gigs in ‘Frozen’ and ‘Glee’. He is, though, a Tony Award nominated stage performer, so ‘Mindhunter’ is a change of course for him. In this Netflix series he plays the leader of a groundbreaking team as criminal profiler Holden Ford. His performance is outstanding. The self-centred, determined and socially inept FBI agent, as portrayed by Groff, changed the course of investigations into serial killers with his focus on similarities in their characters. Witnessing the development of his techniques are Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and the icy Wendy (Australia’s Anna Torv). Hanna Gross is Holden’s tolerant girlfriend. Boy, does she have a bit to put up with. He and his team interview some of the nastiest, weirdest humans it is possible to imagine as they delve and prod to find the clues as to what makes a man (usually) a killer of multiple victims. It’s not pretty viewing at times, but it’s small screen tele at its best. Season one is on the platform now, with the second dropping any time now.

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Do yourself a favour and watch both.

Greg Callaghan’s take on ‘The Loudest Voice = https://www.smh.com.au/national/watch-how-fox-news-grew-from-upstart-to-conservative-super-player-20190806-p52efj.html

Trailer ‘The Loudest Voice’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYQXk-rzs_o

Trailer  ‘The Mindhunter’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFlKiTwhd38

Sex, Chip and Briefly Hugh

Remember ‘About a Boy’? I do, both the book (Nick Hornby) and the 2002 movie. It was the film that stuck most, which is no reflection on the prominent author’s wordsmithery. It was so well done with Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult. I recall it, though, mainly because it was the first time many of us realised that Hugh Grant could act; could show some emotion on the cinema screen. Prior to this title he was typecast as the ladies’ man pretty boy. In the offering he plays Will Freeman, initially a layabout fop with no fulcrum to his life, except his father’s royalties to fritter away – and there’s the nub. Will’s dad wrote a Christmas song – an earworm of a ditty that connected enough to become a yuletide classic. Son Will therefore will never have to lift a finger to earn a living – his father’s song being a gift that keeps on giving. Those familiar with the story know that it’s a lad coming into his life that changes all that. But the point of the exercise is that it takes only one song to hit and one is set for life.

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Now consider these two tunes that have stood the test of time ‘Angel of the Morning’ and ‘Wild Thing’. Two very disparate offerings, but nonetheless monumental hits. Keep them in mind. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to them. But now the sex bit.

With that – well, I’m sorry to disappoint. If you’re looking for a massive actual dose of it and nudity, you won’t find it here – despite the opening scene. That being said, ‘Sex Education’ is almost totally about the subject, watched by countless others on the Netflix domain. You may be a tad offended by it, but it does take an honest look at youthful coming to grips (sorry) with masturbation, penis-fear and anxiety about the act itself. Asa Butterfield plays Otis who, in the digital age, is trying desperately to lose his virginity. He’s not assisted in this by the fact that his mother – a very comely, confused and wanton Gillian Anderson – is a sex therapist. So the boy knows one or two things, but little more, about the mechanics and can exhibit a common sense approach to the mental aspects. He’s manipulated by wild child Maeve (a bravura performance by Emma Mackey) into becoming, guess what? Yes, his school’s very own on campus sex fix it man, despite his lack of actually ever actively participating in the process to its culmination. Still, she espouses his expertise in all its facets. If this all sounds marginally naff, just give it a go – and like its legion of fans you may also find yourself enchanted by its good writing, positive vibe and warm examination of the human condition. I loved it – and it bought me to Chip, with the assistance of my beautiful writerly daughter Kate.

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Over one of our regular city brunches she asked if I had ever heard of Chip Taylor. I replied in the affirmative that I had, but only in the vaguest way. When I in turn inquired what her interest was, she told me she had picked up on one of his songs on the soundtrack to ‘Sex Education’, emphasising how much it appealed to her. Back home I duly YouTubed it and yep, it was a ripper. But we’ll go there later. Let’s concentrate on the singer/songwriter for a while.

Now here’s a list:-

Wild Thing’ – a hit for the Troggs, Jimi Hendrix, the Runaways and the Muppets.

Angel of the Morning’ – a hit for Merrilee Rush, Juice Newton and Chrissy Hynde.

I Can Make it With You’ – a hit for Jackie de Shannon.

Try, Just a Little Bit Harder’ – a hit for Janis Joplin

Enough to live on for several lifetimes, I’d say.

Now, add into the mix that Chip is also the brother of Jon Voight so therefore is the uncle of Angelina Jolie.

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The man was born James Wesley Voight in Yonkers, New York in 1940. Originally he wanted to become a professional golfer, but teed off instead with ‘Wild Thing’, so it was goodbye to the golfing greens. He really wanted his own singing career in music and although he had some minor success, becoming a rock god eluded him and he turned to professional gambling. With his weathered voice he has now found his niche and a cult following (as well as a Norwegian Grammy nomination) on his return to the stage, back in the 90s. As for his ‘Sex Education’ contribution, here I feel I must state that I am not usually a fan of a certain word on the airwaves and in music – but it just seems, well, appropriate for once. It certainly caught Katie’s ear and my attention, did ‘Fuck All the Perfect People’. With its exposure on a high rating series, it has purchased for Taylor another signature song, this time one for his second coming.

To be or not to be
To free or not to free
To crawl or not to crawl
Fuck all those perfect people!

To sleep or not to sleep
To creep or not to creep
And some can’t remember, what others recall
Fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I’m not talking about you!

To stand or not to stand
To plan or not to plan
To store or not to store
Fuck all those perfect people!

To drink or not to drink
To think or not to think
Some choose to dismember, you’re rising your thoughts
And fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I, I’m talking about you!

To sing or not to sing
To swing or not to swing
(Hell) He fills up the silence like a choke on the wall
Fuck all those perfect people!

To pray or not to pray
To sway or not to sway
Jesus died for something – or nothing at all.
Fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I, I’m talking about you!

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Check it out on-line – his performance of it – or, even better, treat yourself to ‘Sex Education’. A gem of a series produces a cross reference to a gem of a performer with a gem of a tune

Listen to the above tune here = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt9GBafFzjE

Trailer for ‘Sex Education’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o308rJlWKUc

March Marvels

The weather’s cooler so it’s back into jeans, socks and an extra layer on top. The cinemas have turned off their air conditioning (always a bane), but it’s too early for firing up winter heating. At the State the seats are comfy, as they are at home in front of a tele, so it was time to settle into watching what we hoped would be March marvels. Were they?

Could there ever be a more perfect husband than Armie Hammer as Monty Ginsburg? He features an All-American square jaw, is broad shouldered and as tall as a redwood. He plays equal in every way to his famous wife, supportive of her career aspirations that were ahead of their time – after all, these are as the 50s morph into the 60s – and never a cuss or a harsh word crosses his lips. His better half (really), Ruth, opened up American law to embrace equal opportunity from her exulted place as a high court judge. She was diminutive as he was opposite, but what a team they made.

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On the Basis of Sex’ examines our heroine’s progress from an almost token law student, gender-wise, to the highest legal office in the land, ushering in an era of progressive decision making (which Trump has swept away with his ultra-conservative appointments). But in Ginsburg’s day remarkably forward-thinking souls, like her, paved the way for all that Trump and his cronies abhor. Liberal America will always thank her for that.

There’s nothing wrong with this bio-pic. It just doesn’t set the world on fire is all. But when Ruth succeeds by pushing through, in an unusual way, a law enshrining equal rights, it is worthily emotive. Consider a visit if it comes to one of your platforms at a future date.

Now Bill Nighy is one of my very favourites in the acting world and he shines, with all his tics and idiosyncrasies, in ‘Sometimes Always Never’. He is superb as a tightly bound man, addicted to Scrabble, living a highly ordered life. This starts to break down when he receives a call to come view a John Doe who may or may not be his long missing son. Said son stormed out during an argument with his dad over said game and hasn’t been seen by the family since. Nighy’s character Alan, a Merseyside tailor, cannot get over it and his other son Peter suffers as a consequence. At the viewing he encounters a couple with the same intention. Alan immediately fleeces the husband with his hustling ability and has a relationship of sorts with his missus, ‘Call the Midwife’s’ Jenny Agutter. Great to see her out of her habit and being just a tad naughty.

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But it’s the great thesp who delivers in this outing, in his natural element, as Alan. It’s a small film so therefore he may not get the kudos his performance warrants and it is a far from perfect film – but it is great viewing to see a mature actor at the top of his game.

And, as we turn to the small screen in March, someone else of mature years, at the top of his game, is Hugh Grant. Like Nighy, he’s another consummate Britisher, but he plays against type here in this biopic of controversial politician Jeremy Thorpe. Once, as leader of the Liberal Party, Thorpe had the political world at his feet. Then his sexual proclivities caught up with him in an era when homosexuality was against the law and it all came tumbling down. For a time he kept his true self well hidden behind marriage, but when he discovers and is titillated by Ben Whishaw’s Norman Scott, in a rich man’s stables and they take a tumble in the hay, he lets down his guard. To him Norman is just a plaything to be disposed of at will. To the younger, by far, man the relationship was much, much more – and thus, when jilted, his revenge was unforgiving. He wasn’t going to take it lying down. Whishaw matches Grant for brilliance in ‘A Very English Scandal’. Hopefully this title will be up there with HG’s other signature roles, although it’s at variance to what we normally associate with him. We watched this from a DVD and if unavailable on one your platforms, it is excellent value for the purchase price.

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Also well warranting a looksee, small-screen wise, are another two guys who have well and truly paid their dues. It’s a Netflix product and recounts the story of Bonnie and Clyde from the perspective of the hunters, not the hunted. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson are like old whisky – they get better with age – just like your scribe.

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Trailer ‘On the Basis of Sex’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28dHbIR_NB4

Trailer ‘Sometimes Always Never’ -= https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22R-JQRov_U

Trailer ‘A Very English Scandal’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggDTJc470Co

Trailer ‘The Highwaymen’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH6vC-BBKOc

Eight, Over and Out

I won’t grieve. I won’t miss it. It’s not ‘Mad Men’, ‘Downton’, ‘West Wing’ or ‘Californication’. No longer sharing my world with Don Draper, Violet CrawleyCountess of Grantham, Joshia Bartlet or Hank Moody still pains me.

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That being written, ‘Game of Thrones’ is a magnificent and remarkable beast. We have been blessed to have had it for so long and now, with Season 8 about to commence on our small screens, the end is nigh – although spin-offs have been promised. Parts of it were simply breathtaking – and for me not only the bits Ms Sandlier listed. Like her, for much of the time, I didn’t have a clue what was going on, or who belonged to which family. But, unlike with her, re-watching it all again in preparation for the final hurrah is out of the question, although I know she’s far from alone doing so in the build-up to April 15th. There are scenes, though, I’d love to see again, especially those involving Emilia Clarke and the dragons. Love the dragons.

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I also will not be busting a gut to see it as close as is possible to the release date. I can wait. I’m a patient man.

What I relish about the thing is that, for most, it is the pinnacle of our Golden Age of Television. It is our ‘Gone with the Wind’; our ‘The Birth of a Nation’. It’s something we can pass on to our kids; our grandchildren as Tegan S is now doing with her fifteen year old. My Katie will do that for Tess; Rich for his Ollie and the one about to be – just as long as they don’t kill the dwarf!

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Tegan Sadlier’s opinion piece = https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=tegan+sadlier+tv+stories+game+of+thrones

Me and MAFS

My dear mother, at 92, loves Martin Clunes – and what’s not to like? ‘Doc Martin’ is beloved in my household and millions of others globally. He’s aced curmudgeon, has Clunes. In his Cornish sea-fronted village he’s surrounded by lovable dolts and irritating patients. The blood-fearing doctor is in a constant state of exasperation at the world he’s found himself in. It’s pure escapism – he transports us to another place; we can get away from our worries by being entertained by him and his foibles.

Now whereas this fitted perfectly in with the ABC at an accessible, for all, time-slot of joyously uninterrupted viewing, the actor’s latest offering, ‘Manhunt’ has gone to the dark side. It’s gone to ad-drenched, free-to-air commercial television. It was set to follow the reality behemoth ‘My Kitchen Rules’. My mother was looking forward to seeing the English thesp in a different role.

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And she tried to watch it, she really did. She was soon defeated. Of course it started later than it’s slated starting point at 9pm, as reality shows seem to have the right to go on as long as they wish. Evidently not keeping to published times is a ploy to somehow prevent one from changing channels – most would give up and go to another platform, but my mother hasn’t that luxury. Nor has she the mechanism to store it for later and fast forward through the interminable ad breaks slicing and dicing the show into five minute sections. My dear mother gave up as tiredness overcame her. No doubt a family member will gift her a DVD of the series, knowing her tastes, at a later date. There are shows we all recommend to her, but many are on far too late for her as reality series these days take centre stage. They are comparitively cheap to make and if the jackpot is hit with the public, they’re a rating and therefore an advertising bonanza. But for my mother she, rightly or wrongly, calls them ‘reality rubbish’, not worth her time. So she’ll bury her nose in a book or slot in a DVD. Pity.

Reality rubbish’ has taken over the television landscape. It’s easy to knock it and people like Tim Elliott who watch the genre. His opinion piece revolved around ‘Married At First Sight’ and it leads the pack, popularity wise, at the moment. On paper it seems ludicrous and for that alone it would have never featured as part of my viewing – never. But here’s the rub. Sometimes you’re captive; not in control. Now I can say I’ve never watched ‘Master Chef’, ‘MKR’ or ‘The Block’, the other huge raters, but I have MAFS and several of the other ‘finding true love’ variety, ‘The Bachelorette’ and ‘First Dates’ – all in somebody else’s loungeroom.

And I soon discovered each of them, despite fully realising I was being manipulated by their contrived natures, to be eminently compelling.

In the wee hours a few nights ago the radio had on a British human relations expert speaking to the topic of MAFS’ hold on the Australian viewing public. She had worked on several UK shows of that ilk. When asked if it was really true love the contestants were after, she laughed and went on to explain it was mainly about a way to get richer than they were; to have their fifteen minutes of fame and/or notoriety. Of course, as we all know, a few have succeeded. Most, though, disappear back into obscurity. She, the expert, was illuminating on all the boxes they have to tick before they make it on to the set – mostly to do with body shape, appearance and how to behave, or misbehave. She said it is forbidden to rig the outcome, but there’s nothing to stop contestants being strongly advised.

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Now I must admit I was fascinated during the hour I spent recently with ‘Married at First Sight’. The wonderful couple I was with explained to me, in detail, as we went, how the show operated. There did seem to be a couple of pairings who were seemingly besotted with each other. One such featured a fellow who claimed he came to the show as a virgin and had that weight quickly lifted off him soon after their confected vows by the damsel he was matched with. Regular MAFS watchers will know how quickly their togetherness dissipated. But at the time it seemed so sweet and genuine. Knowing myself, I could quite easily have become caught up in it all. That was shattered, though, at the end by a couple whose relationship had turned rancid. Each clearly despised the other. So when, at the end of the show, they were given the choice to stay or go it should have been obvious what was to occur. Both clearly had to depart, but if one wanted to stay, it forced the other to do stay ‘married’ under the show’s rules. Guess what – one required just that bit more infamy. I couldn’t leap that hurdle, so I didn’t persevere with this vehicle in my own abode.

Again ‘The Bachelorette’ was similar. I had great company for a few episodes of the ‘17 series too. And it was quite easy to lose yourself in it, that is, till she (Sophie Monk) chose the exact type of man she’d been telling us had, to date, ruined her life. Again many of you dear readers will know how that went for her. Blind Freddy could see the mistake she was yet again making .

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For me the best of the shows was ‘First Dates’. Contrived too, of course, it did seem to have more heart; the contestants, well, more real. If it resumes I could get hooked.

So you never know. I might easily become a Tim Elliott too. In the world we live these shows give an escape, despite their motivations and manipulations. And that’s no small thing. No different to ‘Doc Martin’ in fact.

Tim Elliott’s opinion piece = https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/there-are-lessons-for-the-whole-family-in-trashy-reality-tv-20190319-p515gi.html

Hollywood Endings at Home?

In recent weeks I’ve entered hitherto foreign territory with the popular platform Netflix. Up until now we’ve been immersed in its vast array of small screen series, keeping Leigh and myself mightily entertained. But, some recent house/dog sits have freed up my time to venture elsewhere and spread my wings. As a result I’ve come away with a long list of movies from it, as well as, to a lesser extent, from Stan. The former, though, houses the first two viewed – very different, but both worth of the time spent with them.

Paul Giamatti’s Richard and Kathryn Hahn’s Rachel are in relationship hell. It’s not that they don’t love each other, but any sort of enjoyment from sex has disappeared long ago. For this forty-something couple its sole purpose is to produce a longed for offspring – but the usual means is not working. Finally, other solutions are sought and we are taken into a warts and all look at the world of IVF, adoption and surrogacy. Eventually there’s a giving young relative, Sadie (Kayli Carter), willing to lend a hand, or her body.

Private Life’ takes us to the nitty gritty of the often heartbreaking decisions that have to be made in the pursuit of the goal of mother/fatherhood. When all seems out of reach in this film that pulls no punches, suddenly a ray of hope emerges – but will that too be snuffed out? It’s all passion killing stuff treated with no airbrushing whatsoever. Paul G is superb in his demanding role, Kathryn Hahn simply brave, I would have thought, beyond the call.

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There’s a no doubt deliberate drabness to the tone of this film – one that does not detract from its quality, but seems wholly fitting. Director/writer Tamara Jenkins underwent fertility treatment herself and her first hand experience shows. It’s engrossing viewing as our ever-hopeful pair try so hard to be positive when all the signs point to failure.

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Little drabness, though, in the offering from sunny Argentina that was huge in its homeland, largely for all the wrong reasons. The on-set affair between ‘The Red Thread’s’ two leading protagonists outraged a nation, but sure bought the punters, in their droves, to the megaplexes.

There is an ancient belief that there is an invisible scarlet thread (thus the English title) that people, who are meant to be together, in this case vinter Manuel (Benjamín Vicuña) and air-hostess Abril (María Eugenia Suárez) will eventually be. The duo make contact over Amy Winehouse and then a flight to Colombia. A customs mix-up see the pair separated, preventing any possible continuation of an obvious mutual attraction and they go their separate ways. She weds a rock star; he successfully raises a family and quality vines.

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Then the thread comes into play and a chance meeting at a resort location sees them reunited and how; lustily forgetting any consideration of the supposedly loved-ones back home. Perhaps it should have happened years before, but what now for our love struck pair?

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Both leads are appealing to the eye, although the movie brings little new to the theme of attraction lost and regained in in awkward circumstances. There’s obvious chemistry between the pair which, as it turns out, resulted in an ugly confrontation during film making between Vicuña’s then wife and Suárez. The pair are now together. The film is not as testing to watch as ‘Private Life’ if some light relief is the order of the day.

Be aware that both movies display a fair amount of nudity and sexual activity and of the two, the first is the stand out. Also viewed, but of lesser quality were ‘The Devil’s Mistress’ (Goebbels takes a lover) and ‘A Spanish Affair2’ (definitely helps to be Spanish and know regional idiosyncrasies). Still, if my list is anything to go by, there would seem to be some fruitful movie watching from Netflix to last me quite a while.

Trailer for ‘Private Life’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1orjA9Z8g4

Trailer for ‘The Red Thread’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1pQeMaCV7E

Puddin’ and Dumplin’

They are gorgeous, these girls. Willowdean Dickson and Millie Michalchuk would turn heads in any situation for their sassiness and plus-sized curves. They possess a beauty that is radiant and their allure appeals to any number of the opposite gender. Pat of the issue, though, is often the owners of such charm and comeliness just can’t see it.

Julie Murphy’s ‘Dumplin’ was a NY Times bestseller and hit a chord with a YA audience craving for ‘real’ role models. This wasn’t lost on director Anne Fletcher, star Jennifer Aniston or songbird/national treasure Dolly Parton. They have combined to present a film version now streaming on Netflix.

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It’s a production with a heart as big as Texas. Willowdean, played with elan by Aussie Danielle Macdonald, is a 17 year old student of Clover City High and a diner waitress. Her mum (Aniston) is a fading local beauty, running the annual pageant Miss Teen Bluebonnet, being a former winner back in the day. She tries to be a good mother but is not entirely tactful when it comes to her daughter, throwing around the family’s pet name for her. Dumplin’ is not always impressed. The younger Dickson, partly in retaliation, spunkily decides to enter the beauty/talent contest, but her spark of defiance quickly morphs into something else. It becomes a rallying cry for a few other outsiders – the larger than life Millie and lesbian goth Hannah.

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Bo (Luke Bernard) is the love interest here. He obviously adores Willowdean’s curves, as well as her other more cerebral attributes, but it takes a while for our heroine to accept his advances as genuine. It is a delightful journey, this adaptation. We know exactly how it will all pan out in the end – and that doesn’t take away the shine at all. It is a comfortable way to spend some time with a small screen. The author gets a minute cameo (can you spot her towards the end?) and it is also worth checking out Dolly on YouTube performing ‘Girl in the Movies’ from the soundtrack. Just beautiful.

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Meanwhile Ms Murphy has produced a companion volume to coincide (deliberately or otherwise) with the release of ‘Dumplin’. ‘Puddin’ is certainly a match for its predecessor in the readability department, focusing on Willowdean’s mate Millie. It’s basically an odd couple tale as circumstances bring Miss Michalchuk and school dance queen turned bad girl Callie together. This tome, despite its 400 plus pages, is an easy peruse as Millie works at chipping away Callie’s rough edges, as well as trying to figure out what is going on with her hot and cold beau-hopeful Malik. It features many characters from the first book and it is interesting comparing the movie’s version of Millie with how one pictures her in print. With ‘Dumplin’ featuring in many awards on release, its follow-up should be equally popular. Maybe there’ll be a version on a big or small screen of it too!

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Netflix site for ‘Dumplin’ = https://www.netflix.com/au/title/80201490

Julie Murphy’s website = http://juliemurphywrites.com/

Dolly Parton performs ‘Girl in the Movies’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdSKR8EHnXY

Edna and Sam, My Hero

Look at the image of her amidst the magnolia blooms during her Vassar years. She was gorgeous. After her graduation, a friend remembers seeing her, flame-fired red hair flying, as she ran down a street in Greenwich village, ‘…flushed and laughing like a nymph.’ Another remembered nostalgically her lips shaped like a valentine. She turned heads. It was the 20s and the world was opening up for women; to young women like her prepared to take it on with their words; young women prepared to take it up to the menfolk with their vivacity and sexuality, often in unconventional fashion. Her love life certainly became a talking point.

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Her talent was spotted early. A rich benefactor paid for her education and by 1923, at age 31, she was the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Later came the Robert Frost medal for lifetime achievement. She was friends with all the literary giants of the era, refusing proposals from her male admirers until she met Eugen Boissevain, whom she married and cohabited with for 26 years, both taking lovers on the side. She managed to find time to regularly publish tomes of poetry and prose until her death in 1950 as a result of a fall down the stairs at her home. This was Stapleton. It went on to become a colony for artists and now it, together with its extensive gardens, is open to the general public.

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The great Thomas Hardy once wrote that America had two great attractions – the skyscraper and the poetry of Edna St Vincent Millay. In 1928 she wrote the haunting elegy ‘Dirge Without Music’.

It was cheap in JBs and I purchased it because he headlined. I’d never heard of this 2017 film although the blurb suggested it was his finest performance. I doubt that, but nonetheless ‘Hero’ is a worthy vehicle for the talents of one of America’s finest. He’s recently resurfaced in a role playing Jackson Main’s (Bradley Cooper) much older brother Bobby in ‘A Star is Born’. His Netflix release, ‘The Ranch’, is also popular.

In ‘Hero’ he plays faded star Lee Hayden, a Western icon with a golden set of tonsils. His best days are well behind him and in any case, he really only had one significant role for which he is remembered. He gets by these days on weed and whisky. His drug dealer, Jeremy (Nick Offerman), is his best friend. At the dealer’s place he runs into Charlotte (Laura Prepon of ‘Orange is the New Black’ fame), a much younger woman – thirty-something to his 70, an age gap he’s not at all at ease with. She chides him not to dictate who’s she has to fall for, so the unlikely couple become lovers. This is compounded by a cancer diagnosis and a tribute speech that goes viral, bringing the limelight back again. Meanwhile he thinks he finally discovers why Charlotte is bedding him. Eventually he is forced to come to terms with some monumental changes in his life and at the pointy end of the film, Charlotte sits him down and reads to him Millay’s ‘Dirge Without Music’. It is a poignant and moving moment. Sam’s Elliott’s face, as this happens, is mesmerising.

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This actor is one of my movie heroes and Laura’s character is right in being so taken with his voice and moustache. The poem led me to Millay – another bright star who, unlike Lee, will never f-f-fade away.

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Millay’s poem ‘Dirge Without Music’ = https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52773/dirge-without-music

Trailer for ‘Hero’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjZ3af65fwk