It is early September as I write this, more than 19 months into a pandemic that, in its earliest days, I had written off as something overhyped, much like SARs and Bird Flu were two decades prior. Of course, there is no such thing as overhyping a global catastrophe that has taken over 4.5 million lives so far (source as of 9/3/21: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-toll/).
Now, I am, if anything, more concerned than the average American that the numbers aren’t stabilizing quickly enough; the Delta variant is spreading at an alarming rate, and we have only just reached 70% of Americans with at least one dose of the vaccine. I predict that we’ll keep theme parks and campgrounds open until Fall Break and that afterwards, restaurants, museums, and other attractions will slowly re-shutter and mask mandates will slowly re-appear. I hope I’m wrong once again, but this time I think I will be right.
Despite lingering coronavirus concerns, I did manage to take one vacation this year; it was one that had gotten postponed 12 months for obvious reasons, and that fell into near-perfect weather.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is reinventing the wheel this year when it comes to their annual Academy Awards ceremony. For one thing, being 14 months into a global pandemic has changed the presenting space. I am told that the Dolby Theater will still be used, but that downtown L.A.’s Union Station will be another location as well, with nominees and a single guest apiece in attendance, but no seat-fillers or anyone else.
For another thing, the “Oscars so white” outcry that popped after the crop of nominees from 2019 produced just a single major-category nominee of color (Cynthia Erivo of “Harriet”), eligible best picture nominees (as few as five films and as many as ten) must meet at least two of the following criteria: have a major character be handicapped, LGBTQ, or a racial minority (or have over 30% of the cast be female), and have a storyline revolving around one or more of the aforementioned subjects; have at least two of the top production staff members involved in the film’s production fit the above ethnic/physical/gender criteria; offer internships and apprenticeships to the above-mentioned persons, as well as job opportunities for them in below-the-line roles; and have a marketing and distribution staff that includes representatives from the above group. (Specifics can be found here).
Finally – and for the third year in a row – the event will be sans host. I have little doubt that the show will still near the four-hour mark, even with the Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing categories being merged int one. Having multiple venues (including locations abroad for overseas nominees to appear as well) will surely carry with it some technical challenges…and there are always surprises, from the streaker of 1974 who appeared behind a game David Niven; to the occasional tie (in 1968, Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn shared Best Actress honors, for “Funny Girl” and “The Lion in Winter,” respectively); to Faye Dunaway announcing “La La Land” as the Best Picture winner in 2017, only for it to be retracted in favor of “Moonlight.” What a night that was!
This year, “Mank” leads the pack with 10 nominations, followed by “The Father,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Minari,” “Nomadland,” “Sound of Metal,” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” with six nods apiece? Which films will win? Read on!
What a year it has been! (And I don’t mean that as a compliment.) Indeed, if I were to call 2020 a “crazy year,” that would be, by most accounts, an understatement. From COVID-19, cases of which continue to climb as news of rival vaccines suggest that hope is in the not-so-distant horizons; to seemingly-endless California wildfires; to dual hurricanes ravaging the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua; to meth gators, murder hornets, and giant Saharan dust clouds – and to one exhausting presidential election in which the candidate that officially lost still refuses to concede – it seems that planet Earth has been on its collective toes since the year began.
Eight years ago, I began this blog as wide-eyed expat who had just arrived in Mexico City. While the occasional post might have been about movies, family members back in the U.S., or travel memories to other parts of the world, the general theme was about my new life abroad – settling in, taking in the sights, navigating my blossoming relationship with a CDMX local, etc. Content was added, on average, once or twice a week.
Fast forward to 2020, the year to end of all years, and I hardly write at all, and just once about Mexico City. I am finishing up six years of Tennessee residency, and wondering what my employer’s recent announcement, that our Knoxville office will be permanently closing next year and all employees in it remaining 100% virtual, means in terms of remote living possibilities should a fish-out-of-water such as myself want to move to a different city.
First things first, though: we have an election to contend with…and it is sure to be a doozy. With a general sense of anxiety in the air, with a pandemic that seems to be rising in new cases, with a passionate #BLM movement that has staked some equally-passionate flames on the other side of the aisle, I feel that the stakes have never been higher. Continue reading “Election 2020: All Bets Are Off”
Chadwick Boseman, the 43-year-old rising star of such films as “42,” “Get on Up,” and Marvel’s “Black Panther,” has died. The cause: colon cancer. The reaction: stunned silence.
The South Carolina-born Boseman, who leaves behind a wife but no children, was poised for superstardom. He headlined the highest-grossing film of 2018 (“Black Panther”) and played real life figures Jackie Robinson (“42”), James Brown “Get on Up,” and Thurgood Marshall (“Marshall”).
It is just four days into June as I write this, yet it seems as if the world’s been quarantined for about two years now. Even after COVID-19 infections level off (still a ways to go on that, methinks) and the police officers responsible for George Floyd’s death are brought to justice (again, still a ways to go, I think), we will continue to face an uncertain rest of the year. For one thing, hurricane season has already begun. For another thing, in April the government announced the existence of aliens, and I wouldn’t be surprised a whit if there was an actual landing. For yet another thing, the murder hornets are still on their way from the Pacific Northwest to the rest of the United States.
(GringoPotpourri note: I am both serious and joking in my comments about aliens and murder hornets. I mean really, what’s next?!)
At least there are streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime to pacify us. Movie theaters are closed, and sadly, I suspect that many of them will never open their doors again. The new golden age of television has given entertainment junkies much to binge watch – I recently finished season five of AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” and season three of Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” I look forward to the next season of Prime’s “Jack Ryan,” and may tackle HBO’s “Chernobyl” in the meantime.
That being said, I am much more of a movie geek than a TV geek; if you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you surely know that. There is good content to be found online (or in other formats, such as DVD and Blu-ray; I subscribe to both regular and DVD Netflix). Below, in no particular order, is a sampling of ten films that I’ve watched since the COVID quarantine began. Since a part of believes that things are opening up too quickly, and that new cases will spike as a result, I’m sure we’ll be in this for some time to come. If you’re at loss for something to watch, and have diverse tastes like I do, you may find something that appeals to you from the following selections. Enjoy!
It has been one month since I lost my best friend.
I am talking, of course, about Molly, the world’s best golden retriever, who died unexpectedly while supposedly on the mend from a bladder infection.
We mourn the passings of our beloved fur babies because they are in our lives for such a short period of time, and because they ask us for so little, yet give so much affection in return. I grew up with dogs from infancy, and, like my parents and sister, have always treated them like part of the family. They sleep inside, not out (and on our beds much of the time). They have Christmas stockings and receive birthday cards. They go with us on family vacations.
But Molly was even more special. She was the love of my life.
For the second time in a row, the Oscars will be host-less. Last year, original host Kevin Hart, whose name had briefly become associated with homophobia, dropped out, lest the Oscar broadcast become besmirched in controversy. The end result was a leaner show, still long at three hours, 23 minutes, but a full hour shorter than the longest-ever Oscars, 2002’s four-hour, 23-minute snooze-fest.
Aside from the “Oscars so white” outcry that popped up again this year with just a single major-category nominee of color (the excellent Cynthia Erivo of “Harriet”), this year’s pre-show drama was decidedly low-key. I expect a show with lower-than-normal ratings, considering that many fans of “Joker,” the year’s most-nominated film, probably aren’t the target viewing demographic for the Oscars, and that last year had a much more mainstream slate of nominees but disappointing ratings nonetheless.
Here are my picks for the winners. Interestingly enough, this year’s acting categories each seem to have all-but-guaranteed winners, which is unusual. That being said, there are always surprises; last year, I was wrong on both Best Actor (Rami Malek for “Bohemian Rhapsody”) and Best Actress (Olivia Colman for “The Favourite”).
As I look back on the 2019 year in cinema, two thoughts come to mind. The first is that wow, I saw a lot of movies last year! The first few months of the year saw the release of “Us,” the sophomore film by “Get Out” director Jordan Peele, of “Captain Marvel,” straight out of the MCU, and of “Glass,” a miscalculated sequel to both “Unbreakable” and “Split,” if you can imagine such a thing. Later, we got the sentimental “Toy Story 4,” the ribald, “Superbad”-esque comedy “Booksmart,” and a quiet little think piece called “Avengers: Endgame.”
The second half of the year gave us a few above-average horror films (“Doctor Sleep,” “The Lighthouse”) and a few below-average ones as well (“It Chapter Two,” “The Dead Don’t Die”). Finally, the end-of-year Oscar-bait bombardment gave us such diverse fare as “Richard Jewell,” a compelling true story from octogenarian director Clint Eastwood, “Uncut Gems,” an intense thriller of sensory overload starring a better-than-usual Adam Sandler, and a slate of Netflix titles given the briefest of Oscar-qualifying runs, such as “The Two Popes,” which posited an imagined meeting between Popes Benedict and Francis.
Phew! I try to avoid seeing bad movies at the theater, and enjoyed most of what I sought out. A few films disappointed me, like the mis-marketed Mr. Rogers movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and the Brad Pitt-starring “Ad Astra.” Still, there was much to like, and I tried to catch up via Netflix or Amazon Prime on anything that I may have missed in the theater. Good thing for those reward points – lots of free popcorn!