Monthly Archives: December 2011

It’s A Wrap – Part One.

Wrapping up the box.

MY TELEVISION YEAR.

It has been a very busy year for Babs so there were far and few television programmes watched with regularity. Thankfully I have a DVR and with boxed set DVDs and friends abroad it has allowed me to catch up on some great TV viewing. Here are my faves and the reasons why I stay glued to the flat screen.

1. The new kid on the block – AMERICAN HORROR STORY.

The wondrous creators of ‘Glee’ and ‘Nip/Tuck’ – Brad Falchuck and Ryan Murphy are responsible for this campy take on the haunted house theme. A young family movie into a house in Los Angeles to repair some damage done due to daddy’s infidelity. Full of naughty housekeepers in garters or with glass eyes, a rubber gimp suit, creepy neighbours, ghosts past and present, a homo couple and references to the pitfalls of childbirth and children to boot! It is a real treat, crafty and creepy, a guilty pleasure – minus the guilt! Jessica Lange in her SAG and Golden Globe nominated role as southern neighbour Constance is the shows highlight amongst many. Renewed for a second season, this time with a different family, house and ghosts I can’t wait to be horrorfied again.

2. The silliest  stalwart – TRUE BLOOD Season 4.

Sooky (Anna Paquin) and her sexy suitors returned for more murderous mayhem and plenty of blood spilling. This time the foe was a coven of witches led by the formidable Fiona Shaw as the leader Marni. One highlight was when the superb Nelsan Ellis as, arguably the best character in the treasured show – Lafayette channels the spirit of Marni therefore imitating Fiona Shaw,  it was a hoot . Kristen Bauer van Straten as vampiress Pam had lines of dialogue to rival Sue Slyvester in ‘Glee”. It was sillier and bloodier then previous seasons but it still works for me. Bring on season 5 which will feature Christopher Meloni (Law & Order SVU, Oz) as a sexy superior vampire. What more beefcake?  🙂

3. Never a pain – NURSE JACKIE Season 3.

Edie Falco, warts and all, returned as the most flawed character I can recall on the small screen. This season a new nurse entered the frame and he was right on Jackie’s case. She managed to dodge the bullets of last seasons revelation that she is indeed a pill popping addict using prescription drugs to avoid the pains of life in a big city hospital – juggling a dual life at home and at work, the final episode in which she pulled the two- faced whammy and asked her husband to get out of the house was a whopper. Falco leads this great ensemble with a riveting performance, Eve Best as the best friend continued to delight as do the rest of the staff of All Saints hospital in NYC all helping to make this series one of the best shows on TV right now. It shows no sign of losing its appeal making me want for another hit – am I an addict?

4. Medievil Mafiosa – GAME OF THRONES.

HBO – well those 3 capital letters they do make you stand up and take notice. New to the quality stable of series comes a show that is a real treat. It has been tagged  as a ‘The Sopranos” in Middle Earth but it is far more than that.

Filmed in Ireland and Malta the scenery is glorious and production values are of the highest order making this show flawless and allowing  you to immerse yourself  into the fantasy world that simply makes you believe. Fine acting from a mostly British/European cast and an Emmy winning performance by the little man of the moment Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent) this series follows many clans across many kingdoms who covet the throne to rule all. It took me a while to work out who was who and what the hell was going on at times, but it has individual scenes that were riveting and as a whole was entirely engrossing. Once I found my way around the clans of the Starks, the Lannisters, the Targaryens, and so on I was hooked.

Production design and costumes should be singled out along with seamless CGI that has you seeing and believing in this wondrous other world. The title sequence is superb as well.

Mention must be made of the final scene, I was absolutely stunned, it came from nowhere but once revealed I cannot recall a single image like it in recent times, it shook my world and will surely shake up the next eagerly awaited sophomore season of this great show.

5. Musical Mayhem – GLEE Season 2 and 3 (pt 1)

The musical maniacs of McKinley high school returned and whilst the episodes were very patchy and uneven, when it soared it was well worth the effort of persevering with this pioneering show. The episode in which virginity was lost between a heterosexual and homosexual couple of kids was a highlight, though not as controversial as they say, it cleverly used  the staging of the musical of West Side Story to great effect. Sue Sylvester had her usual quotas of clingers –  always a delight. I am looking forward to the new series ‘Smash” that follows in the musical footsteps of this favourite of mine.

6. Homegrown quality at last – THE SLAP

Perhaps setting a long overdue benchmark for quality television out of  Australia this controversial suburban soap opera had everyones tongues wagging. ‘Who’s side are you on?’ was the tagline – following the aftermath of a family BBQ in which a child was slapped by another adult, not his parents. Based on the acclaimed popular novel by Christos Tsiolkas each episode concentrated on a separate character as the saga continued. Covering many hot topic issues and featuring a multicultural cast the performances were first class, the writing gratefully accomplished and the production values at the top end of the scale. It was a welcome change on the local television scene. Kudos to cinematographer Andy Commis who created a cinematic canvas that is unusual for Aussie drama.

Please don’t die on us – THE BIG C season 2.

Laura Linney returned as Cathy with terminal cancer – at times she can be very self righteous and selfish but then she is dying so I guess all can be forgiven. This dramedy had some fine moments and some terrific guest stars – Hugh Dancy & Parker Posey. It was good to see the character of Andrea played by Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) fully fleshed out this time. Unfortunately I missed a couple of eps midway but the final episode packed a sentimental but very powerful wallop, making me feel I had run an emotional marathon myself.

Honorable mentions to

MODERN FAMILY  – a great cast of characters both the adults and the kids, constantly funny, I don’t watch religiously but I am always pleased when I catch eps every now and again.

THE LOVE BOAT (reruns on 11) – I love catching up on the retro guest stars often Hollywood icons long dead and TV has beens.  Silly storlylines that keep me interested even though oh so cliched.

THE GOLDEN GIRLS (reruns on Gem) – A TV comedy classic with a great cast of elder actresses. Betty White is the last dame standing as sadly the other 3 cast members Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty are no longer with us. Perfect comic timing and wonderful retro references tickle my funny bone a plenty.

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Animal Kingdom being developed for the small screen.

I was very pleased to read that that great Australian film “Animal Kingdom” is on the cards to be developed as a TV series for Showtime. I love this movie, one of the best Aussie flicks ever. I am thrilled that writer/director David Michod and producer par excellence Liz Watts are on board as executive producers, sure to maintain the films integrity.

The 2010 film – a crime drama focused on a family of criminals and their battle with the police and the innocents who got caught in the middle. It was a multiple award winner and scored a best supporting actress nomination Oscar for it’s matriarch – Jacki Weaver (robbed!!!!!)

I like the concept of a TV adaptation but it will be a challenge to recreate the mood of the original on a week by week  basis. I can’t wait to see who will land the role of the mamma of the clan. If they choose the right cast, writers and directors it is sure to be a winner. I do hope it comes to fruition. Fingers crossed.

The lovely Liz Watts, Animal Kingdom’s producer.

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She’s gonna make it after all

The Screen Actors Guild award nominations will be announced tomorrow but in the meantime TV legend Mary Tyler Moore has been announced as this years SAG Lifetime Achievement recipient. It will be presented to her at the SAG ceremony on Jan 29, handing it to her will be Dick Van Dyke a former co-star and dear friend.

Tyler Moore starred in and created her own series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”  from 1970-77, successful spin-offs from that show were “Rhoda” starring Valerie Harper (74-78), “Phyllis”  starring Cloris Leachman (75-77) and “Lou Grant” starring Ed Asner (77-82). Her production company MTM also produced “The Bob Newhart Show”, “WKRP In Cincinnati”, “Hill Street Blues” and “St. Elsewhere”. She has won countless Emmy awards and was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People”. One of her co-stars Betty White received the same honour from SAG in 2009.

A statue of Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis at the site of the famous “hat toss” scene from the opening credits of the hit show.

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Sneak peek – Jacki Weaver

Here are a couple of screen grabs from the just released trailer for the new Universal pictures film “The Five year Engagement”. It is the first Hollywood film and first screen appearance for Jacki Weaver since her Oscar nominated turn in “Animal Kingdom”. It look likes she plays the mother of Emily Blunt’s character

It also stars Jason Segel and will be released in Australia on May 17. It comes from the production stable of Judd Apatow of which I am not a fan, but I am sure to go and see this one, because of  Jacki whom I adore.

 

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Pedro peels back the layers.

Film Review: THE SKIN I LIVE IN

directed by Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar is thankfully a prolific filmmaker, every couple of years unleashing another cinematic treat. I always look forward to the next film by ‘Almodovar’ and even when they are not ‘one of his best’, they are far better than most other films on offer. “The Skin I Live In” is no exception. Full of all the usual Almodovarian trademarks – sensational design, sensual cinematography and seductive music, alongside melodrama, mayhem and madness. His themes of yearning and loss are also intact. This time he tackles his first ‘horror’ movie and he relishes the genre, bending it and twisting it and having a lot of fun doing it. Reunited with an actor whom he can lay claim to discovering, Antonio Banderas who portrays Robert Ledgard a mad doctor in the vein of Frankenstein – a hugely successful plastic surgeon with vengeance on his mind. He is deeply affected by the death of his wife and daughter. We meet him as his obsession to create a perfect skin treatment that will revolutionise his field is revealed to his peers. Meanwhile back at his very stylish mansion on the outskirts of Toledo he has a strange young woman (his monster) in captivity, a secret experiment only known to one other, his loyal housekeeper Marilia played wonderfully by Marisa Peredes (a Pedro regular, most famously in All About My Mother) . Who is this girl? (Elena Anaya in a very touching performance) Where has she come from? Why is she here? All will be revealed in a tantalising fashion that will not disappoint any fans of the directors oeuvre. While some may argue that this movie is a lesser film, I disagree and believe that it stands high up there with many others, particularly of the “Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down” and “Kika” period. It may seem a little cold and detached but I think that is intended. Make what you will of the messages – identity being a major player, it is a moving, strange, funny, wicked and at times very creepy film well worth time spent in a darkened theatre.

“The Skin I Live In” opens in Australia on boxing day December 26.

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Eddie and the Edies.

I saw two theatrical productions this weekend and both were excellent and challenging in their different ways.

GREY GARDENS: THE MUSICAL

Grey Gardens is based on the 1975 documentary by Albert & David Maysles that depicts the story of the eccentric Beales, a mother and daughter both named Edith. They lived in squalor in a run down mansion called Grey Gardens in the Hamptons –  New York. Of interest here is that they are the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Strange subject for a Broadway musical you might say, but it works very well. In the documentary the women talk and bicker to the camera telling how it was and how it could have been. How did these former socialites end up like this? The musical’s first act shows us the early years of the Beales and the circumstances that led to their strange co-dependancy. Act 2 closely follows the documentary. The musical has a book by acclaimed playwright Doug Wright (I am My Own Wife, Quills), lyrics by Michael Korie and music by Scott Frankel the score owes a lot to the musical style of Stephen Sondheim. It was first performed off-Broadway in 2006 then transferring to the main stem in a revised version. It won Tony awards for it’s leading ladies Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson.

The Australian premiere has been mounted by The Production Company and features two of Australia’s most talented women – Pamela Rabe and Nancye Hayes. Rabe plays Big Edie in act 1 and in act 2 takes on the role of Little Edie with Hayes portraying the elderly mother Big Edie.

It is a fine production, deftly directed by Roger Hodgman, simple and no fuss, letting the actors shine and boy do they shine. Rabe is monstrous as Big Edie, hilarious and heartbreaking as Little Edie – able to ham it up as the roles allow, her final song is very poignant. Hayes is very much her equal, funny and moving as an old lady frustrated at losing her faculties and relying on her odd daughter’s support. The rest of the cast are very good, I couldn’t fault this fine production which gave it’s final performance from a limited season on Sunday.

Nancye Hayes & Pamela Rabe

Pamela Rabe as Little Edie in Act 1

EDDIE IZZARD – STRIPPED

What a dazzling talent Mr. Izzard is, standing alone on stage for nearly two hours (with intermission) a full force funny man like no other- Izzard the blizzard I say!!!

Izzard’s comedic style has been described as rambling, whimsical and self-referential. His storytelling goes off on all sorts of tangents, with hilarious results. This particular show has a structure in which he explains the formation of the world and civilisation from the beginning of time when ‘god’ had a few busy days being creative. His left leaning politics are apparent but not overdone making it all the more powerful. Highlights for me were a rant on Apple ITunes agreements and downloads, and an observation of the vegetable bok choy, his thread on the Latin language was side splitting, actually the whole night was side splitting and his appreciative audience lapped it up. His talents of voice control and physical comedy to match are outstanding, comedy with this much intelligence is very rare, I just loved every minute of it. Eddie Izzard you are a marvel.

Eddie the incredible

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