Recent enjoyments

As usual I’ve been watching quite a lot of things over the past two months or so and some of that I have really enjoyed. I always mean to blog about what I enjoyed but somehow other things come up and I don’t write about as much as I could have done, mostly because I’m too lazy to go into more lengthy critiques. So, now I am summing up some things I’ve been enjoying entertainment wise recently, with shorter comments instead of lengthy reviews.

Let me start with Hallmark, which are basically mindless movies that I can enjoy after intense periods such as closely following elections in the USA or dealing with work stuff that frustrates me. I needed to take my mind off things for a bit, so after a bit of a Hallmark hiatus, I dove back into it to watch some of the Christmas Hallmark movies these past two months. Although most of them were fast forward worthy (I was again reminded of my Hallmark Christmas movie nightmare I once had), there were a few that I did quite enjoy. My fave (of the ones I have seen) is a movie with Warren Christie and Candace Cameron Bure with the very uninspiring title If I Only Had Christmas. It’s about a cheerful publicist teaming up with a cynical undercover rich business owner as they help a charity in need at Christmastime. I found especially the performance of Warren Christie to be quite soulful, which gave the not too surprising story (no Hallmark story ever is) an extra dimension.

I also liked the Paul Campbell and Kimberley Sustad movie, which they also co-wrote together, called Christmas By Starlight. The story is about a lawyer who makes a deal with the heir to a development firm to spare her family’s restaurant from demolition. She spends the week with him posing as the legal counsel his father is demanding he hire in the wake of some costly mistakes. I’ve blogged about Paul Campbell before, I always enjoy watching him, and Kimberley Sustad really is a perfect partner for him and he for her, this is their third film (I think) together. Again, the story isn’t too surprising but there are some fun scenes and there’s some amusing easy banter that goes along well with their easy rapport with each other; I enjoyed watching this.

Last month I already mentioned the Lucas Bryant movie (The Angel Tree) that I also enjoyed, so those were the end of year Hallmark highlights for me.

Putting Hallmark aside (it needs to be enjoyed in not too large doses) I also watched a German movie called Der Vorname (thank you Herba for the suggestion!) about a family dinner where a family member, who is an expectant father, announces that he wants to name his baby son Adolf. Not only the controversy over the name makes this movie good, it’s also very funny at times and the family dynamics and annoyances are very real and relatable. I know not all my German readers will agree, but German movies can be really good and usually tend to be way better than Dutch ones, this is another example of that. I really enjoyed it and actually ended up watching this twice to make sure I caught all the nuances.

I watched the second season of The Alienist (8 sepisodes) at the beginning of November which I really enjoyed, just as I had enjoyed the first season when I first saw it last year or so. Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) now has her own detective agency and teams up again with Dr. Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) and reporter John Moore (Luke Evans) to find a serial kidnapper and killer of babies. I didn’t like the ending between Sara and John very much, so I hope a third season will come to correct that.

The Alienist lead me to another period drama detective series which I finally got around to watching about two weeks ago. It’s called Miss Scarlet and the Duke, starring Kate Philips as Eliza Scarlet and Stuart Martin as the duke/inspector William Wellington. It’s set in Victorian London and is about the headstrong Eliza Scarlet who is left penniless when her father dies and decides to continue her father’s detective agency, to the annoyance of her childhood friend and also Scotland Yard detective inspector William Wellington. She becomes the first-ever female detective in Victorian London and is soon solving murders. Of course there is some sexual tension between the two but this series isn’t only about that. There is only one season (consisting of 6 episodes) of this show and I especially liked the last two episodes, which left me wanting more. Apparently filming for a second season was halted due to the Covid 19 epidemic but I really hope that second season will come.

I also watched some more serious stuff that I enjoyed, mostly US political stuff around the time of the US presidential elections. I saw The Way I See It, a documentary about White House photographer Pete Souza, who closely documented the 8 years of Barack Obama’s presidency and also did some photography of Ronald Reagan. It’s a fascinating portrait of the Obama presidency as seen through his lense and from a human standpoint shows such a stark contrast with the current US president. Pete Souza is a soft-spoken, almost shy man, who likes to blend into the background, but for this documentary takes up a bit more of the stage as he presents his work.

In more politics, I also finally got around to watching the four part documentary series Hillary last month, which is an intimate portrait of former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and how she became one of the most admired and also vilified women in the world. It was a fascinating watch and though, yes, she may have her faults, she still would have made a far better president than Donald Trump.

Recently I also watched The Long Song, a three part BBC series from 2018 that I had meant to watch but never got around to until now. It’s about the end of slavery in 19th century Jamaica and follows the life of slave girl July (Tamara Lawrance). The tone of the drama is a bit mixed, in parts trying to be humorous in its voiceover and that feels off, but the story is very compelling nonetheless and I was fascinated throughout. I don’t know how truthful the narrative is, but it really is worth a watch. Tamara Lawrance is awesome as the feisty and rebellious July and so were Hayley Atwell who played her spoiled owner and Jack Lowden as the idealistic overseer who loses himself.

The only book on this list of things I enjoyed these past two months or so, is the only book I actually got around to reading during this time (yeah, too little reading going on here!). Over Christmas I read Michelle Obama’s Becoming. It was a great read and helped me understand more about who she is, her background, and also gave me a little insight into the dynamics of her marriage to Barack. The telling of her years before she became First Lady is almost more compelling than the last part of the book set during the presidency, as the formative years are very much the foundation of who she came to be and those stories were (to me) less known. The book was a very thoughtful telling of her life and was a bit of an analysis of her character as well. I’d already seen (and enjoyed) the documentary of her book tour a while back, I was glad to now finally read the book itself, giving me more insight in the woman behind the icon.

The book reminded me that I had once read about a movie that had been made about the young Obamas love story. It turned out to be a 2016 film that was made about the Obama’s first date back in 1989 called Southside With You. The film is of course speculative in its dialogue but, knowing a bit more about that first date and about the Obamas through the Becoming book, it really felt true to Barack and Michelle to me. It’s got a very calm and thoughtful feel to it (I really liked Parker Sawyers as Barack Obama) and although I wouldn’t give it the 4 stars it gets on this promo picture, I still thought it was very nicely done. Over time I’ve watched a couple of Harry and Meghan love story adaptations, a TV film about the Danish crown princess Mary (who was born Australian) and her prince’s love story; way back I once saw an awful adaptation of William and Kate’s love story and not long ago I saw bits and pieces of the latest season of The Crown. Of all these true story adaptations that I’ve seen, I thought Southside With You was way better than any of them.

Last but not least, and on a completely different note, just after Christmas I binge-watched the new costume drama Bridgerton on Netflix. It’s set in Jane Austen times at the beginning of the 19th century and centers around the Bridgerton family (a widowed mother and her 4 sons and 4 daughters), the eldest daughter Daphne ‘coming out’ during the London season and falling in love with a duke. It’s apparently an adaptation of a romance novel, and while it looks and is set in Regency times, it has some modern twists, with most notably a truly wonderful diverse cast that I love. The characters are all fun and it has quite a lot of sexy times in it too (which I really didn’t need to see that much of but was fine). It’s filled with clichés but boy, is it a fun watch!

This adaptation is made after the Bridgerton romance novel series written by Julia Quinn, aparently there is a book each for each of the siblings. I found them online, dipped through the first book and the story looks to be pretty much like the Netflix series. Instead of reading that, I went on to actually read all of the second book (The Viscount Who Loved Me) yesterday afternoon/evening (it’s a quick and fun read), which centers on the love story of oldest brother Anthony. Yes, I will be reading more because I want to know what becomes of all these Bridgerton siblings and Penelope (from a neighbouring family). I hope Netflix will renew Bridgerton for a second series. For all it’s love story clichés, it’s very well done, it has a light touch, good characters, some nice thoughts on how society became so diverse (which is a series thing and not in the books, by the way) and also dives into the roles of women, their status, conforming where they don’t necessarily want to conform and showing how keeping genteel women in the dark about sex really disenfranchises them. It really is a fun and sometimes even thought provoking world to get lost in for a while. I’m already waiting for more.

That’s it, my recent enjoyments (off the top of my head). This afternoon my new Kobo e-reader that I ordered yesterday should be arriving (the old Sony one I had had its issues and with the Christmas bonus I got from work I figured it was time for a new one). I think I may be ensconced in the Bridgerton books for a while on my new e-reader before I delve into Barack Obama’s biography, so there’s a chance there may be less blogging going on for a while. Two more days till the New Year and I intend to spend it reading a lot. 🙂

Soothing & dramatic Richard

Working from home right now and Mr Esther was tuned in to BBC Two. Suddenly I hear a familiar voice (other than Mr Esther’s) and it’s Richard Armitage narrating the documentary Lost Land of the Tiger!


This suddenly makes a long day much more lovely! I have now moved with laptop and all to the couch, so that I can work on my laptop (getting back to it as soon as I post this) and hear Richard’s soothing but also sometimes dramatic voice better. Good end of the work day!

Bosworth and Berlin

The other day Mr Esther was watching a documentary on the BBC made by Ian Hislop (of ‘Have I Got News For You’ fame) called The Olden Days. In it Hislop showed how Arthurian and Alfredian legends have been used in different times of history to promote current causes. The Telegraph had a good review for it, should it interest you. I didn’t quite catch all of the programme but what struck me very much was Hislop’s repeated assertion that when Britain wants to move forward, it always looks to the past to do so and more so than many other countries do. I have been pondering that and yes, I think he has a fair point. Parts of the ‘good old days’ get glorified and sometimes that is helpful but sometimes it also stands in the way of progress. I get a sense of that with this whole Brexit crisis. Many British people seem to be saying “we’re better off alone like in the good old days” and in my heart I just feel that those who think that are stuck in the past, not facing the reality of a global world today.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that knowing history and learning lessons from history is extremely important! Many lessons from history really can and do help us move forward and hopefully make us evolve as human beings. I also feel that focussing so completely on the past can possibly also undermine moving forward.

So, what caused me to even blog about these thoughts here? I hadn’t previously even intended to do so! But Richard Armitage posted two tweets yesterday about the Bosworth battlefield outside Leicester that is threatened to be used for development by a Japanese company that wants to test driverless vehicles there.

And there is this message of protest from Richard on the Richard III society page on Facebook, with a lovely photo to go with it….

Richard and Richard III

I never sign petitions blindly just because a favourite person of mine asks me to do so. So, I tried reading that ‘Pipeline’ article Richard linked to and boy is it long and rambling and repetitive. I ended up skimming through large parts but in the article I did understand that the Japanese automotive company already has a technological park there, which already does cover a part of the battlefield. And they don’t want to take over all of the battlefield (which the messages seemed to suggest to me) but they only want to expand into a little corner of the Bosworth battlefield which potentially could be interesting (but possibly also not) to archaeological research.

I did a quick search and found this Telegraph article which shows a map of the area. A map makes things that much clearer for me and I find myself wondering: is that little corner really so essential to the whole battlefield preservation? And if so, why wasn’t the establishment of the Japanese company there deterred in the first place? The company’s property already covers Henry Tudor’s vantage point. I was at the Bosworth battlefield last summer and the area is large, we certainly didn’t take the time to walk over every inch of it. A large part is already preserved and needs to stay preserved, so can’t a little corner be sacrificed? Couldn’t they just do archaeological research in that corner of the battlefield before they build and then display what they find in the Richard III museum in Leicester or at the Bosworth visitor centre? If new things can’t be built over (the edges of) old places, aren’t we stuck? Is this an example of history taking prevalence over future and development? Or, on the other hand, is this really such a very important corner that it needs to be preserved at all cost? If that corner were to be sacrificed, is that giving an inch before they take a mile? I really wouldn’t want that to happen! And does the Japanese company really need that expansion, can’t they do it on the considerable plot they already have? And if it is really so important to keep that corner, shouldn’t the proposal be to also take back that part of Henry Tudor’s vantage point?

I can’t decide one way or the other what to do about this petition, I know too little about this and frankly, I don’t have the time or inclination to go into it in any depth. For me, as it stands now, there are far too many questions. It’s also about history or the future, what to choose? I find both important and I really don’t know! Is there a history AND a future solution? When I sign my name to something, I want to completely be able to support that cause and so, as I am undecided, I haven’t signed anything yet. I have a feeling that Mr Esther would be for signing this petition, so maybe he can convince me once he reads this… or maybe some of you can convince me one way or the other in the comments…

Now that I have written all that down, I can hopefully let it go from my thoughts for a bit and get back to work concentrate on the Richard glimpses in the new Berlin Station trailer for season 3. The trailer, while slick, doesn’t tell us anything about the story, so in that sense I guess it isn’t a great trailer. But it sure does look pretty.

Mat Khal over on Twitter took a few lovely screenshots of the quick Richard glimpses we get, I’ll share my two fave shots here…

RA BS 3 trailer screenshot1RA BS 3 trailer screenshot3

… and now, Richard Armitage, stop keeping me from work while I sit here in our at home office trying to look extremely business-efficient! (Oops, is that Mr Esther coming home, calling me downstairs for lunch? Procrastination, thy name is Esther!)

David Bowie night

On BBC Four this evening we stumbled into a Bowie night. First a documentary on his early 1970s time as Ziggy Stardust, an androgynous, alien, rock star persona he invented and adopted for a while. When Ziggy became too successful and he couldn’t separate Ziggy from David anymore, he very surprisingly pulled the plug. While he did play Ziggy songs for the rest of this career during live performances, he never revisited the actual persona again.

The documentary was followed by all sorts of clips of David Bowie performing live at the BBC, like his break-through performance that started Ziggy-mania, singing Starman so magnetically…

Or this one of him performing the fabulous Heroes…

Or performing his song Hello Spaceboy together with the Pet Shop Boys in 1996…

The man was so diverse and such an artistic genius, I will forever love watching him and listening to him! It’s late now and I’m off to bed soon… maybe David will visit my dreams? I sure wouldn’t mind…

A conversation with Gregory Peck

I was watching the documentary A Conversation with Gregory Peck on Netflix earlier this evening (I was very pleasantly surprised to find it there!). It was made in 1999 (4 years before Peck died) during a speaking tour he did throughout the US, where he spoke about his life and his career.

As I watched it, I realized I must have seen at least some of it before although there were also bits I didn’t remember. As an old-time Gregory Peck fan, hearing the stories he had to tell about his career (even though I already knew many) was an absolute joy! At one special moment in the documentary the actress who played his daughter, Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird was in the audience. Apparently she still called him Atticus and he still called her Scout. 🙂  He also invited his wife Veronique up on stage for a little bit…

The documentary also touched on Gregory Peck’s political convictions. He was famous for being a democrat and liberal and in the video speaks of opposing the Vietnam war while at the same time being proud of his son Stephen who had served in the army during that war. He is also shown giving a speech in Philadelphia in 1999 about gun control…

He says,“Is it the culture or the guns that led to the massacre at Columbine High School? And it is of course both. What is wrong with keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people?” Today, 19 years on, I could still give him a standing ovation for that. Gregory and I would certainly have agreed with each other politically…

What I loved even more in this documentary was the behind the scenes glimpses of him, with his wife and his family. His daughter Cecilia co-produced this documentary and was in it a lot…

Conversation Gregory Peck 08

… but there are also glimpses of his other kids (two sons, Stephen and Carey, from his first marriage and a son, Anthony, from his marriage to Veronique). I loved the images of a family get-together, where they all sat around and watched basketball. Look at the anticipation on the faces of Gregory and his son Stephen here!

Conversation Gregory Peck 02Conversation Gregory Peck 03

I had to blink away a few tears when Gregory spoke of his son Jonathan who had committed suicide at the age of 30, with Gregory wondering whether he could have done more to prevent that. And I blinked away major tears when the film featured Gregory waiting at the hospital for his daughter Cecilia to give birth and then meeting his 10 minute old grandson! Most parts of the documentary are also up on YouTube, I’ll just share this part about the birth here (from 5.20 minutes onwards in this video)…

The fascination with his new grandson and the concern he shows over his daughter just after giving birth so very much reminds me of my own father (and my mother) after my son was first born. Yet again, here is Gregory reminding me of my dad, even in the way he was a dad to his daughter! My parents showed that same love to my baby and the same concern for me…

2001 A. born papa mama Esther

… and their love and concern was repeated two and a half years later when my daughter was born..

The look of being in love with a new baby grandchild is very similar… It made me miss Gregory Peck and it made me miss my dad.

Conversation Gregory Peck 05

Oh, how I still love Gregory Peck! If you like him too, I recommend you check out this documentary on Netflix a.s.a.p…