I was hearing the late Joe Williams in my head lay down some smooth croon just before dawn as the dog moaned a floor below – “every day I have the blues”. One of us – us being either me or Kristine – must let the ‘boy dog’ in our family of two dogs, out for a morning pee and patiently wait while he stares off in space as if eye-signalling a mothership to snatch him for a ride around the cosmos. It truly messes up the remaining hours of sleep.
Late night, we fall from consciousness clinging to the frantic Trump humour of Stephen Colbert; and it’s a struggle. If only Global News would cut out at 11:30 rather than 11:35, I can assure you I could make it through the first riveting minutes of Colbert’s spot-on monologue. It’s those last five minutes when I consider rolling left, clutching a pillow, I have no memory of.
Comedians are the rock stars of today: not all of them, but a good portion. Just ask Netflix. Anyone who has ever made someone laugh once now has a sixty-minute special. We live in the age of Trump and if there are no Trump punch-up lines – there are minimal laughs.
Few saw this coming other than Triumph the Insult Dog. The “dog” hounded Texas senator Ted Cruz, then running for president, through the primaries. The dog then mingled with Trump supporters and, yes, the laughs were big and gut-busting. Unfortunately, the joke became oh so real. Then came premier Doug Ford? No more comedy, please!
Before Trump, I was a mighty binge-watching transport truck. I’d watch anything – shows that routinely sucked – even those fishing trawlers in the North Atlantic absent a lobster or two, locked me to the recliner. Now I’m incarcerated in an unfolding Tony Soprano life-like a grifter series of which I’m confident of the outcome. There’s early mornings with Morning Joe and Mika, then evenings with Chris Matthews and Hardball, The Rachel Maddow Show; and, before the news and Colbert – the ever-snarky Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, the only talking head who will call the resident president a liar, as many times as a lie is told throughout a rudderless day.
Mixed in? Busloads of pundits; most former prosecutors and ex district attorneys and so very young. How can anyone be that young and be an “ex?” If you are watching MSNBC, the panels are mostly thirty-something women. If you are watching CNN, it’s the routine sameness of Jake Tapper and night-screaming badgers loose in Chris Cuomo’s squabbling garage. FOX? I refuse to go there.
“Lock her up” - general Michael Flynn and former Trump national security advisor - awaits a court appearance and we are there - waiting. The next eight hours will be a step by step – blow by blow – word for word – debate about the indictment, possible jail time, the many crimes and streams of repetitive dialogue. Then, let’s not forget to chant “build that wall”.
Where am I in all of this? Within earshot.
This is where my Netflix time is gobbled up, the rest of my time watching the Raptors, now on life support, dodge another injury. Through it all and with the holiday season knocking at the flat screen, I have five – count them, five – “Bill see’s,” I think you’ll enjoy.
Netflix is all over it and with former Universal Pictures vice-president Scott Stuber now Netflix’s movie chief, armed with a fortune and mandate streaming film to make the film division as powerful and as relevant as it’s television division, which copped 112 Emmy nominations this year, this could prove to be a watershed moment for the film industry. Stuber has enlisted filmmakers, Guillermo del Toro, Dee Rees, Noah Baumbach, Michael Bay, Steven Soderbergh and Martin Scorsese – all who have films in the can.
Last Friday, the exalted Roma arrived – a film already in contention for best-picture nominations in up-coming award shows, the centrepiece for the launch. There is fear Netflix’s model will disrupt the Hollywood movie-making machine and surrogate theatres. Whatever the case, we are in for a wild ride.
Roma is set in 1970s’ Mexico against a backdrop of political corruption, ongoing life and class struggles. Director/writer/cinematographer/editor Alfonso Cuaron has gone to great lengths recreating the urban streets of a bygone era when life; pre-Internet, was about people interaction and confronting political misdeeds through protest and civil action. Central to this is house-maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a servant for a wealthy family who accompanies the family with young children most everywhere, catering to their needs.
It’s a film that cuts to the heart of the recent immigration battles. Just who are those migrants marching north from Central America and what do they want? Cleo pretty much sums that up through this outstanding, soul-wrenching film shot in sumptuous black in white. She’s much like the many underpaid nannies across our cities who embrace children of the rich - protect, coddle, educate and engage.
For a good “old folks’ laugh, there’s The Kominsky Method with Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. The premise – a former successful actor, now a method actor coach, and his long-time agent, are facing the downside of life – possible prostate cancer, the passing of a wife and ongoing emotional struggles, a new relationship - carry on as friends have always done.
Two great actors and a decent script which at times seems penned by comic Larry David offers some great laughs and much hope for many facing diminishing years. Dating in your 70s’ – it happens, and people are much like they’ve always been, and few shed their pasts. Watching Douglas go about tutoring hopeful acting students is worth the price of admission.
Narcos: Mexico. I for one now and then yearn for a good drug saga. Now that pot is supposedly legal, Ontarians will be able to drive six hundred miles between government-sanctioned stores to buy a bag of weed. Who let the dogs in?
Narcos, season three, recalls the death of DEA agent Kiki Camarena in 1985, a consequential event that determined how the DEA would expand its war on drugs. The killing was vicious and a message to any who defied the cartel.
Looking back, there was less brutality as regional families first grew and traded in marijuana - created their own distribution networks; transporting across the U.S. border in trucks and cargo planes before the Colombians cocaine and greed. The word gruesome comes to mind. Narcos: Mexico is an excellent recounting of the beginnings of that country's underground drug empire with its corrupt politicians, military and police that conspired and murdered their own citizens for a taste of the profits.
Bodyguard is another in a long line of excellent BBC crime-related series. In fact, Bodyguard smashed all ratings – the largest audience debut since 2006. Actor Richard Madden is bodyguard to actress Keeley Hawe’s home secretary. It’s a cat and mouse game against time, bombings and other related terrorist activities – most close to the lead characters, especially Madden whose children’s primary school has been attacked. It’s the institutions in place to protect, at war with the unknown, in a nail-biting adventure.
Who Shot the Sheriff? The attempted assignation of Bob Marley ReMastered. Writer Bob Lefsetz wrote about this recently in one of his daily postings and I had to revisit. The documentary visuals have been polished and buffed – gone is the haze and scratchiness of the original, yet what remains is a visual reminder of the paranoia surrounding Marley’s rise in stature to a global entity and Shaman to the poor; one with universal mass appeal and a message – and one under constant surveillance and death threats. Underneath, just a guy with a song and something to say from a very bad neighbourhood.
The political manipulations and ambitions of Jamaica’s white political leaders: Edward Seaga and Jamaica’s fourth prime minister Michael Manley, usurped the basic needs of its citizenry. A young Marley, groomed to be a ‘boy crooner’ finds himself consigned to the gang- infested ghetto neighbourhoods of Trenchtown – Kingston, Jamaica and ongoing battles between rival groups – many paid by government operatives. Guns and drugs flow in and out.
Throughout, Marley wanted to remain neutral in these conflicts, but it was impossible in that climate. December 3, 1976 gunmen invade Marley’s safe house in Kingston, wounding wife Rita Marley, his manager Don Taylor and others - grazing Marley. Supposedly, it was all over a gambling debt of friend Skill Cole, a Jamaican soccer player who missed a payment.
Throughout the Sixties, the U.S. government was watching pop musicians and tracking their whereabouts and recording their words. Marley was at the centre of change, and his words touched millions across continents - offering hope and inspiring resistance to oppression. According to this account, it may have cost him his life.
On the radar to watch: Benicio Del Toro – Escape at Dannemora – a prison escape romp, and Shetland – one episode in – an investigative crime series set on the island community of Shetland, formerly Zetland, a subarctic archipelago of Scotland, northeast of Great Britain.
Now, back to the sentencing of “Mr. Lock her up!”