Need to get my head out of politics and frustration and came across a Tiktok meme that did just that. On TikTok people make short 1 minute videos and they have this thing where one person can sing and another in a reaction can add on to that song track and sing as well. This month a shanty song from New Zealand called The Wellerman has become quite the rage and as people add on, it becomes even more amazing. The original is already pretty awesome…
Another guy added a baseline… wow…
And then even more harmony and bass, it’s become a choir…
There’s even an addition with female voices and a violin!
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.
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. 🙂
… Anne with an E was completely unexpectedly cancelled and since then fans (including myself) have been fighting to have the show renewed for at least a fourth season. The show was meant to last for five seasons but very unexpectedly got cancelled just hours after the final episode of season 3 was aired in Canada a year ago.
I admit, I have become much quieter about it in recent months, but that doesn’t mean I feel less passionately about this. I still post an occasional #renewannewithane tweet and yesterday the phrase “One year without Anne” trended on Twitter and I again joined in. That also inspired me to finish this post, which has been sitting in my drafts folder for many months now.
I have to say I was caught by surprise at the visceral, overpowering love I developed for Anne with an E. Often it is an actor who makes me feel that way and while I love the Anne actors (these young but also older actors all do such a phenomenal job on the show!), the love I feel is all about the whole show and not particularly about one actor in it. Something just clicked for me, especially in that third Anne with an E season. Rarely, if ever, have I been so devastated over the cancelling of a show.
Why do I love this show so much, I keep on wondering? It’s tied to a love developed in my youth, I guess. I first encountered Anne of Green Gables in the mid 1980s through the very famous and popular Canadian TV films with Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth and Jonathan Crombie.
I loved Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables, the Sequel. I read the books, watched the two TV films endlessly, adored Megan Follows in the role and years later even watched the somewhat unfortunate Anne of Green Gables, the Continuing Story, even though the storyline didn’t fit the timeline of the original series at all and was a bit over the top.
I just loved the character of Anne, who triumphs despite being different and having a difficult childhood, who has a rich fantasy life, loves books and disappearing into stories like I do, who likes to right wrongs, who is chatty and warm, who isn’t perfect, has a bit of a temper. All of these strengths and weaknesses put together make her such a great character. I also love the adoption storyline, as that is close to my own experience in life (I have four adopted siblings).
After the glorious Megan Follows as Anne movies, there was a new PBS Anne of Green Gables film in 2016 with two sequel films. I thought I’d give those a go as well, saw parts of them, but those felt all off and too fluffy for me. Anne is not only chipper and imaginative but also gritty and this Anne didn’t seem to have that. Despite that, Ella Balentine as Anne was alright. However, especially Martin Sheen as Matthew and Drew Haytaoglu as Gilbert felt completely wrong. I quite like Martin Sheen, love him in Grace& Frankie, but he just is too garrulous and prominent to be a good Matthew, who is supposed to be shy, a still water and a man of few words. And Haytaoglu is just too young and childish to be the somewhat more grown up Gilbert all the kids look up to.
In fairness, I haven’t seen enough of these films to give a proper critique. They just felt too off so quickly, I couldn’t do more than skip through them. It didn’t feel like the Anne character I knew and it couldn’t in any way live up to the Megan Follows films, which were (and still are) embedded in my heart.
Then enter Anne with an E. About three years ago we started our family Netflix subscription and I saw Anne with an E advertised. I just knew that had to be a new Anne of Green Gables adaptation. Again, I was sure that it would not live up to the Megan Follows version and, after the previous adaptation’s experience, I didn’t want it to spoil Anne for me. I held off watching for a bit but then decided I couldn’t resist taking a peek after all.
This Anne version was very different from the 1980s one and from the PBS version. This Anne (played by Amybeth McNulty) was grittier and darker, dealing with the childhood trauma of her experiences as an orphan. She was annoying in a way, definitely ‘different’ and yet she was also so very Anne Shirley, who used her fantasy life to escape reality and used big words.
Matthew Cuthbert (played by R.H. Thomson) is the sweet, shy man of few words I had expected and has such warmth in his eyes and expressions! His sister Marilla Cuthbert (Geraldine James) is the gruff, emotionally closeted woman who slowly warms up to Anne and learns to show her heart reluctantly.
When I started Anne with an E I expected Gilbert to make an appearance in the 90 minute pilot episode, but he didn’t. The pilot and second episode focussed on Anne finding her place with Cuthberts. I was sold during the second episode, with Matthew finding Anne after she had run away, Marilla warming up to Anne and admitting fault and Anne being adopted into the family. The ending of the second episode is just achingly beautiful.
For me the complete success of Anne would also depend on the casting of Gilbert Blythe. He made an appearance in episode 3 and he certainly did not disappoint.
Anne with an E‘s Gilbert has a different back story from the books and 1980s Anne of Green Gables, but he is the same idealist, more worldly than the other kids, and has the same fascination for Anne, precisely because she is different. Gilbert is much more fleshed out in this series, with his own sorrows and trauma, and I really like that. I instantly liked Lucas Jade Zumann as Gilbert, just as I had instantly liked Marilla and Matthew.
Anne’s BFF Diana Barry is played by Dalila Bela, I also liked her…
… and I loved the range of girls that became Anne’s friends. All characterisations were there, from mean girls like Josie Pye (Miranda McKeon, second from left) to dreamy, naive ones like Ruby (Kyla Matthews, third from left).
Especially Ruby and her puppy love for Gilbert just cracks me up.
And Rachel Lynde (Corrine Koslo) is also excellent. I love the contentious friendship she has with Marilla and there’s a lot of humour between them as well. Also, she has a flirty relationship with her husband, which I love. Yes, even older women can have good, sexy relationships!
Season two brings a whole new character, who is not in the books, called Bash, short for Sebastian. Bash (Dalmar Abuzeid) becomes the brother from another mother for Gilbert and has become one of my fave characters on the show.
His character brings in a storyline on racism in Canada, also shown through the character of his whirlwind love interest Mary Lacroix (Cara Ricketts)
Season two introduces an LGBTQ storyline with Aunt Josephine Barry (Deborah Grover) and a new character called Cole (Cory Grüter-Andrew).
Teacher Miss Stacey (Joanna Douglas) enters the scene at the end of season two and is a delightful, emancipated young woman who captures her students’ hearts with her unconventional ways.
The third season brings a heartbreaking native Canadian storyline with Ka’kwet (Kiawenti:io Tarbell), a Mi’kmaq girl whom Anne befriends.
So, yes, the story does diverge from the books somewhat and brings in new characters, but the original characters are who they are supposed to be in essence. Anne is the liberal heroine of the story, of course, and yet even so has her faults, as all the characters do. No one character is all good or all evil and all of them are so very relatable. I related to the teenagers in the story, reminding me in many ways of my own younger years, but I could also really relate to Marilla who struggles with parenthood sometimes and Matthew’s warm diplomacy reminded me of my own father in a way. Even Rachel, who can be very prejudiced and judgemental, has moments I absolutely love.
I think this Anne version shows how very different people are and yet how they can still find a way forward together. I also love all the issues that are addressed, they seem modern but really are timeless and fit into Anne’s world very well. This billboard that was up in Toronto expresses it perfectly…
Season 3 tied up relatively nicely but also left more than enough questions for a season 4 follow up. When the finale ended I found myself already looking forward to that fourth season. No one expected the cancellation and when it came a day after the euphoria of the finale, the blow seemed extra hard. I’m a 50 year old woman and it may be ridiculous to love this show so much, which is principally about teenagers, but I really do. I love it for all the characters in it, young and old, I love seeing that time period (late 1890s) come to life and I love all the issues it tackles.
So, yes, I love this Anne, just as much as I love 1980s Anne. Two very different adaptations and both of them very good in their own specific ways. By the way, the two Anne-actresses filmed a movie together last year, with Megan Follows directing and Amybeth McNulty acting…
Anyway, a year on I am still rooting for Anne with an E to be picked up again so that it can get the conclusion the makers had originally envisioned. There is no sign of a renewal, all those involved have said that it is sadly the end, and yet I still decide to nurse a flicker of hope for a renewal, as hopeless as it still looks now.
Yesterday I heard that my older brother has Covid-19. He’s not been well for only a short time and had a fever for two days but seems on the mend again, so it looks like only a mild case for him. Now his partner and two teenage kids are tested as well and we have to wait what those results bring. This morning I hear my other nephew may have contracted the virus as well (independently from my brother), still awaiting results. Also this morning, the news comes that the US president now has Covid-19. So much going through my head on that one, so let me only share what Mark Hamill said to that and then leave that be. (By the way, since Wednesday we also have an advisory here in The Netherlands to wear masks at public indoor spaces).
I just need something to take my mind off all the doom and gloom and work is just not doing that. I’m so not motivated for work today, even though I try to do stuff here and there. So, to cheer me up on my break, and maybe others as well, here’s a really happy Miranda fan video I like…
And I’m following that by loads of fun Lucifer gifs (yeah, I’m still in Lucifer mode during my down time) that make me smile. Starting with a buttload of Amenadiel (DB Woodside) gifs…
… followed by fun Lucifer (Tom Ellis) ones…
… and go on, some Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt) ones too…
An hour of looking at gifs, a video and blogging about it all has brought a smile back on my face… and now it’s back to work for a little bit before the weekend starts…
I’m a little late to this, even though I did see mentions of it crossing my Twitter timeline here and there this past week. Recently, on Britain’s Got Talent, a dance group called Diversity performed a Black Lives Matter dance and apparently that dance has received a record amount of complaints for being too political. I only just now watched that dance for the first time and it is a stunning performance.
I had a visceral reaction to this performance and I am still in tears while typing this.
Speaking of that performance, it also made me think of this performance at the BRIT awards earlier this year by a British rapper, whom I don’t know, called Dave. He too addressed Black Lives Matter in a very personal way…
I had a similar visceral reaction to that performance as well when I first saw it a few months ago and again just now as I re-watched it for this post. In fact, that performance sparked a whole discussion on the topic with my son a few months back, which was very valuable to me, and since then Black Lives Matter has come up in conversations with my kids regularly. I am so proud to hear them speak with such disgust of intolerance and how natural it is for them that black lives really do matter (and how much they hate the #alllivesmatter hashtags).
One of the things art is about is that it interprets reality to highlight an issue or feeling and make us as viewers understand and talk about it. These performances do that so achingly well. The pain of what it can feel like to be black in our society really hits home in these performances and I think everyone should just take a moment to stop and listen and then do better.
Thankfully I am just now reading that British media regulator Ofcom will not further investigate Diversity’s performance. They say: “Diversity’s performance referred to challenging and potentially controversial subjects, and in our view, its central message was a call for social cohesion and unity. Any depictions of violence by the performers were highly stylised and symbolic of recent global events, and there was no explicit reference to any particular political organisation – but rather a message that the lives of black people matter.”
Bravo to Diversity and Dave for their heartfelt and stunning performances and may it help effect change!