I’ve drifted away from tracking things we’ve watched in recent years here, so I’m going to start getting back to it.
Kaleidoscope (Netflix): This is a heist show that tells a pretty standard heist story: a guy wants to rob another guy, but stealing his stuff is going to be very difficult, so he puts together a crew to help him. The crew consists of career criminals each with a different skill set, and they all have trust issues. All that, and there’s backstory between the main thief and the planned victim. It’s all pretty standard, as heist stories go, but the twist here is that the show is designed for the episodes to be literally watched in any order. This works kinda OK. The show is slick and well-made, with terrific acting, but once you get past the “shuffle it up!” nature of the story, you see that when taken from point A to point B, it’s a completely standard heist story.
Andor (Disney+): As I write this we’re only up to the 7th episode, and there are 12 overall. Many folks have told me how incredibly well-written this show is, and there’s some of that, but so far I’m finding the pacing really off. The first few episodes are basically a three-hour slow burn and it’s hard to get terribly interested in the characters. Things do improve by around the fourth or fifth episode, but “best Star Wars writing yet”? I’m not seeing it yet. Maybe the last five episodes get there, though.
Hell’s Kitchen (FOX): As of this writing, the show is down to probably the last three or four episodes of the season. At this point it’s pretty much something to put on the teevee. I’m glad that it airs Thursdays, which makes it a perfect brainless watch on Hulu on Friday night. After this many seasons the show is just paint-by-numbers with a new group of chefs each year; there has been no significant change to the show’s formula in years, and not even dumping nasty stuff on the chef’s heads makes the “Blind Taste Test” interesting at this point.
Blown Away (Netflix): This was Season Three of Netflix’s competition show about glass blowing. And yes, it’s a delight to watch, because it’s shot beautifully in a giant glass hot-shop in Hamilton, ON; there’s none of that personality-clash, alliance-building crap that is so often the rule in “One goes home each week” competition shows; and the episodes are only about half an hour long. There’s a lot to learn here about glass-blowing, and it’s joyous to watch artists doing art. (Watching the first two seasons partially informed our visit last year to the Corning Museum of Glass, a residency at which is part of this show’s prize for the final winner.)
Glass Onion: This sequel to Knives Out isn’t actually a sequel at all; it’s simply another mystery story featuring the brilliant detective Benoit Blanc as he unknots a crime that’s been committed by one from a number of narcissistic rich people. Glass Onion doesn’t follow the Knives Out formula much at all, and it looks very different from the first film, which is encouraging; writer-director Rian Johnson isn’t just ticking off the boxes as he makes these. Lots of fun.
The Gentlemen: Adventures in the London underworld, told by unreliable narrators and involving people none of whom seems to have the slightest expectation of longevity. Marijuana cultivation and smuggling, blackmail, and double-crossing give way to violence and murder, much of it committed by criminals who aren’t always the most competent batch out there. It’s an entertaining movie, and it actually gets really good about halfway through, when the viewer realizes that the story is too complicated and is being told to us by people who may be lying, so it’s best to sit back and enjoy the blood-soaked ride.
The Pale Blue Eye: I really enjoyed this and it’s an utterly beautiful film, a murder mystery set at West Point and the Hudson Rivel Valley in the early 1800s; one of our heroes is a young West Point cadet named Edgar Allan Poe, who assists a detective (Christian Bale) in tracking down whoever is brutally murdering cadets. The movie gets its atmosphere completely right, including tavern scenes wherein a movie finally manages to convey how dark a place really gets when it’s lit by candlelight alone. The film suffers in its last act; there aren’t enough characters to make the mystery’s solution a satisfying surprise, and then there’s the fact that the mystery is apparently resolved while 25 minutes of runtime remains, so…well, if you’re an experienced viewer of these kinds of stories, you know what that means.
Hugo: This filmed adaptation of Brian Selznick’s wonderful book The Invention of Hugo Cabret–which I have only recently read, after having owned it for years–is one of the most delightful things I’ve ever seen. The book is a delightful blend of novel and graphic novel, and the story blends an almost steampunk-ish initial story in which a young boy is living in the secret tunnels of Paris’s biggest train station in 1918 or so, secretly tending to the station’s many clocks and trying to complete the repairs he and his father began on an “automaton”, a steel clockwork figure in the shape of a man with a pen, before the story eventually shifts to being a love letter to early cinema. Martin Scorsese directed this film, and every second of it is a delight, between the main story, the wonderful characters in the periphery, and the entire world the film inhabits–and that’s before you even get to the “love letter to early cinema” part, which is where Scorsese really shines. Though the film was nominated for many awards, it was apparently a flop in 2011 when it came out; why word-of-mouth didn’t propel this movie to being a hit, I’ll never know. I’m very happy we watched this.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: One of the things I’ve always admired about Love Actually is that a few of its characters are assholes, and the movie doesn’t shy away from looking at what happens when assholes get involved in a love story. This Woody Allen movie takes that concept all the way: it’s basically Love Actually but entirely about assholes. It’s oddly amusing and even entertaining, but everybody in it is a huge asshole.
Stay the Night: Oooooh, I loved this movie. Sheila O’Malley recommended it last year, and as her recommendations are almost always good enough for me, I watched in on that basis alone. It’s similar to Before Sunrise in that it unites a young man and a young woman for one single night in one city, and it lets us follow their emotional gamut for just that one single night. In this case the young woman is a professional who has just been passed over for promotion, and the young man is a hockey player who is being sent down to the minors. They’re both reeling and wounded when they meet each other in downtown Toronto, and they roam about the city (I always love how movies in this mini-genre make cities look so magical) sharing more and more about their lives, before the morning brings them to their required parting. Do they ever get back together? Who knows? That’s not the point.
What have you been watching of late?