Mirvish Village  Photo: Bill King
Mirvish Village Photo: Bill King

Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022

When asked what you did over the holidays, I would guess many would say they chased down a third dose.

Others lined up and watched a coursing morning light cut across the horizon, hoping to snatch a Covid-19 test kit at one of those pop-up clinics. The process, precautionary. For many, something went off the rails with few kits available, logging hours shivering in a freezing rain and fearful. The most frightening place to be—alone and wondering if the person behind you carries the virus.

The Omicron variant dampened what was to be an all-out return to family get-togethers, limited constraints, and nights out bar hopping. The volume of infections is staggering, and a persistent stress on mind and body.

From a business picture, holiday retail sales are up 8.5% - that’s something to smile about. The most significant gains were in clothing purchases—a whopping 45% of dollars spent. I can attest to that. The closet looks like it’s making a comeback. Those selfies on Facebook remind us we are still wearing the same flannel shirts from two and three seasons ago.

Another positive, actor/singer Jackie Richardson and jazz guitarist, Reg Schwager awarded the Order of Canada. And radioman/label chief Duff Roman—a Member of the Order of Canada. In most years, this award is in dispute. None here!

The long stretch between December 24 and January 2 has seen the streets go silent. That photo introducing this article was taken the morning after Christmas near the grounds where fabled Honest Ed’s once resided now undergoing fierce construction as towering condos and retail space are being developed. Long gone, that circus lighting most came to associate with fun bargains. Those long line-ups of immigrant families getting a first taste of Toronto.

The action for most over the holidays lived on the flat screen. Even the most established and watched talking heads bolted for the holidays. Stand-ins, not so engaging. This is where we found ample time to swing back and forth from one streaming service to another: this thumb is in need of physical therapy.

A full-on return to the times when theatres dominated the landscape, now a delusion. Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and Titanic boast eight billion in lifetime gross. This season, it’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, Don’t Look Up, The King’s Man, The Power of the Dog, Disney’s Encanto, Being the Ricardo’s, Licorice Pizza, Sing 2, West Side Story and Nightmare Alley on folk’s minds. Spider-Man $1,161,332,00 at the box office. The big winner this season. From a Canadian—director Denis Villeneuve, Dune raked in $394,585,276 in 2021. The most promising film of the season, Stephen Spielberg’s re-imaging of West Side Story—an anemic $38,545,893. Awards season can’t come soon enough for those still in play. The year’s big bust—the return of the Sopranos–the big screen version–The Many Saints of Newark. Nobody watched or cared.

Two streamed films captured the enthusiasm of social media with differing responses. Let’s put these in the adult viewing category. Spider-Man and others—Disney and Marvel’s releases geared towards eager teens. Kids crammed theatres to watch in the sharpest big screen resolution, bombastic sound, and jarring animation. I observed the holiday talk.

Being the Ricardos

 

 

I viewed this over three sittings. At first, the prosthetic makeover of Nicole Kidman ambushed me, and second, I’d never missed an episode with the parents. Much like the Honeymooners and Ed Sullivan Show, this was appointment television, Lucy, on Tuesday nights. On each viewing, I experienced more and much less judgmental. Javier Bardem, Nina Arianda and J. K. Simmons are remarkable. The behind-the-scenes story is gripping.

Lucy, a communist? Bit of a stretch in that most times she verbally pounded hippies and anti-war demonstrators. Ricky’s betrayal and alcoholism led him to part with Lucy. That makes sense. Real-life, Lucy and Desi continued as friends to the finish but from a distance. Fred Mertz as played by J. K. Simmons a keeper. The real Mertz played by William Frawley, a successful vaudevillian who popularized several songs, Melancholy Baby, among those. Frawley already had 100 films under his belt before entering the Lucy Show.

There are moments that irritate about this depiction, yet in the remaining third of the movie, Kidman shines. Still, I could have seen this as a breakthrough vehicle for comic genius of actress Kate McKinnon. Think about where she could have taken this. Of note, Kidman, as with Hollywood, will receive an Oscar nod in the Best Actress category. I also see the cast in play. It’s light out there for ‘big role’ movies now.

ScreenShots:

Dave Charles

You’ll love to see Lucy and Ricky in full fight and flight. Check it out.

Linwood Barclay

Exceeded my expectations by far.

Bernie Finkelstein

Loved this. Great writing and acting, and beautifully done. Like Bill, I remember “Lucy” being appointment viewing for my parents, and I loved alongside them. A wonderful movie worth watching.

Richard Ouzounian

Wound up loving it despite the cheesy Deus ex machina in the final scene. No spoiler, but if you saw it, you know what I mean!

Don Oates

Also loved it...closed my eyes, and it was Lucy’s voice one heard.

Diane Roblin

I was disappointed. Found the story interesting, though. Javier was excellent as Desi. I tried but couldn’t buy Lucy…and, for some reason, it was dark on my screen (made me think that maybe I need a new tv)

Ron Canner

She nailed Lucy’s voice. Totally adult entertainment. I won’t comment on that ending except to say we humans are complicated beings.

 

Then there’s Don’t Look Up.

 

 

This too required three sittings to get through. Admittedly, I got sidelined watching the Danish serial killer series Chestnut Man. My kind of thriller. The Danes, Brits and Swedes own this action.

As far as Don’t Look Up I’m kind of on the fence with this. I get the critics, and I get the viewer’s enthusiasm. This is much like convincing people to get vaccinated or become less dependent on fossil fuels. For Americans, Republicans come strapped to lobbyists and big cash donations. Any movement on saving the planet is lost in space. I have this vision of 300 Republican congressmen bartering with Jeff Bezos for a seat on the next missile to the far away planet Proxima b, in hopes the air quality and living conditions resemble the high-priced suburbs of Great Falls, Virginia. The fact is, the deciding vote, Democratic senator Joe Manchin profits generously from the family business, fossil fuels. Manchin would rather we find another planet and move on if a vote threatens his trust. This is where we are at. And these folks come with sledgehammers and wield enormous political power. We know where this will end. Predictably, the outcome on film gets it right.

Don’t Look Up sports a substantial cast and brings the message across. Meryl Streep, a cross between Trump and Sarah Palin and Jonah Hill doing his best Don Jr., works. If you have paid attention to the ongoing heartless corporate behaviour and uncivil discourse around climate change, then this heavy-handed approach may either bore or rock your world. I think a younger generation should pay close attention to this film, but I’m worried most are more fixated on cartoon spiders in capes and hand toys. As for pure entertainment, this is a weed smokers movie. As for political satire, I’m still hung up on Carl Reiner’s 1966 classic, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians are Coming. I like most perplexed by the low ratings given director Adam McKay’s satirical entry, so I’ll grudgingly part with a 7.

Screen Shots:

Karen Bliss

I had trouble getting through the first 20 minutes, but once I did, I found it brilliant but obvious. Just sad and horrific satire. If you want to watch pure genius minds, check out Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman. Also, Hugh Dillon’s Mayor of Kingstown.

Graham Shaw

it was fine...coupla laffs...7.5..Blanchett was very good. Jennifer and jonah..solid as always..a competent portrayal of the piecemeal attention span of the times..the Elon musk guy was really creepy good.

Karen Gordon

It’s a broad satire and I think that any kind of comedy is really a matter of taste. More so than drama. I liked it because I think it’s pretty smart.. MacKay, IMO, isn’t trying to be subtle. He wants to make the point clear. After all there are people in the US who believe that somehow or other, their most recent election was ‘stolen’.. and they’re being led by Fox and worse ‘media’ outlets and no matter how many times Trump lied, and how his once former staffers have turned against him, they refuse to see the con. So MacKay isn’t being subtle, because, I’m guessing, he’s partially hoping that it might sink into some people.

Susan Glickman

I couldn’t bear it - the satire was too broad for me, the stereotypes too unbearable. Gave up after about 20 minutes.

Greg Godovitz

Brilliant movie. People with a sense of humour need only apply.

Warren Cosford

I didn’t ‘get it at all. Turned it off.

Eric Posner

Just because a movie is on Netflix doesn’t make me watch it. And Don’t Look Up I turn off at the opening credits. I gave it ten minutes, and it bored the crap out of me. There was nothing new and interesting to it.

Bob Johnston

Parody at best, but I got bored.

Beyond film—television and forward.

 

 

What a pleasant surprise coming across A Song for You: The Austin City Limits Story released in 2016 on Amazon Prime. The show was created in 1974 by Bill Arhos, Bruce Scafe, and Paul Bosner. I highly recommend it.

The longest-running concert series of its kind has a storied history beginning with a pilot featuring Willie Nelson. Through the years the accent was on country music until the staff caught serious blowback from fans who viewed it tightly wound to the Grand Ole Opera. A sudden shift to alternative rock opened a lane to the future and set the stage for groundbreaking experimental acts. Of note—the quality of music in the doc. Performances by Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Loretta Lynn, Guy Clark, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Kris Kristofferson, Marcia Ball, Lyle Lovett, Buddy Guy, Ray Charles, and others. A great story about the Charles rehearsal where he signals the big band to meet at the end of the stage after soundcheck where he curses and demeans them. While scolding, the ensemble vanishes, leaving Charles talking to himself. Also, Stevie Ray Vaughan 1983, jacked up on drugs, sweating profusely and just killing it. I can’t think of another player who, from the downbeat, smashed the beat and pounded the groove with such authority.

Jeremy Clarkson

 

 

The billing says, follow Jeremy Clarkson as he attempts to run a farm in the countryside (Clarkson's Farm). With no previous farming experience, Jeremy contends with the worst farming weather in decades, disobedient animals, unresponsive crops, and an unexpected pandemic.

Clarkson has been on Brit TV for 33 years and is best known for the motoring programs Top Gear and The Grand Tour alongside Richard Hammond and James May. He writes weekly columns for The Sunday Times and The Sun and has hosted the ITV game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire since 2018.

Jeremy Clarkson’s farm—which he affectionately named Diddly Squat Farm—a nod to his amateur farming status; is in Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds. The show’s premise. Clarkson knows zip about farming, yet has deep pockets for hardware. In episode one, they made Clarkson aware that Attending to his 1000-acre estate requires a tractor. Instead of purchasing a standard-size workhorse, he opts for a $40,000 GBP Lamborghini, one that rarely fits anywhere on the property, yet airtight and certain protection against flies and the ever-changing elements.

Throughout year one, Clarkson experiences everything from months of heavy downfalls to drought. Through it all, he remains positive and cheerful to the point of breaking. Alongside him is an array of colourful characters all with knowledge, experience and specifics about regulations, which He sees as an impediment to his vision of reshaping the farm into nature’s promised land. Clarkson is trailed by farmhand, 21-year-old Kaleb Cooper, a young chap who’s never seen roads beyond the back lanes connecting farms yet has a caustic tongue and wit to match Clarkson himself. IMDB rates this a 9.1. I agree.  

Parting thought

I have little endurance for local newscasts, other than catch-up time and a seven-day weather forecast. Most start with a steady fifteen minutes of shootings and vehicular calamities. With Covid in play, that’s enough discomfort to burden the head.

I will admit following the inquiry into the decimation of democracy in the U.S., with an eye to realizing this could materialize here if one of those right-wing crazies in the PC party showed an ounce of charisma. I have observed little of Premier Doug Ford since they packed that B-grade flag-drenched set into the Ford U-Haul. Will Trudeau hang on? Who knows? Will 2022 be Chrystia Freeland’s year to own? Quite probable.

South of us, I’m staying with the optimist in me. I trust in the January 6 commission and understand one should never piss off a Cheney. Papa Cheney was as evil a man ever imagined. Daughter Liz has Beth Dutton (Yellowstone) ice in her veins, and the potential to bruise and batter those fumbling clowns behind the insurgency. My capital is in Lady Wyoming—a state characterized as one of the world’s finest ‘bury your money’ places on planet Earth. You thought Panama was the top offshore dumping ground for ill-gotten assets? In Wyoming, one can hide bundles under broad pastures of cow plop never raked over.

I view 2022 as MAGA reckoning time. I expect Biden will flex and enforce protection laws drafted to shove back at unwanted redistricting and election tampering. I am watching Stacey Abrams run for governor of Georgia and potential Democratic candidates? This is a moment of consequence and none more noteworthy than securing the right to vote.

I’m also looking forward to life in our splendid city. Will we get skyrocketing rents under check? Will there be venues for musicians to perform? What will the Blue Jays look like come spring training? How will an entire squad of healthy Raptors fare the second half of the season? Will Covid-19, as expected, decline as more Canadians vax up and play by the statutes?

The next few months will convey plenty about the year ahead. I’m all in. Damn, I experienced the measles; vaccinated, asthma; needles three turns a day, dozens of medical stabs in the army, survived that...thus is life! By the way—a third stab last week. No side effects from all three safety measures. Get smart and let’s rock 2022!

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