Having spent my entire career in the entertainment business, people love to ask me, “What should I be watching on TV?” or “Can you recommend a good movie?”
So after popular demand, I thought I might actually dedicate a post to some of the great television and movies that are currently out this holiday season.
Let’s start with the movies:
The Shape of Water - It’s pretty spectacular. I am not a big lover of fantasy, nor horror, nor anything with creatures. That said, there are exceptions to every rule and this is one of them. Guillermo del Toro is masterful in his filmmaking and co-writing this script with writer Vanessa Taylor (Game of Thrones). This movie tackles several genres: noir, thriller, love story, creature feature and just good old-fashioned movie making. Every scene is remarkably purposeful and thematic. As advertised by the title, water is thematic throughout. Water represents not only a life source but also birth (or re-birth) as the opening scene suggests in an almost amniotic fluid-like dream sequence. Water, also, functions as an aphrodisiac for our heroine. It defines her in her daily rituals and it is what draws her to finding true love. del Toro’s use of subtle imagery is beautiful throughout. Even the ever-present egg represents an almost biblical theme as not only an offering of sustenance but of rebirth.
The performances are flawless. Sally Hawkins' (Blue Jasmine) portrayal of a mute cleaning woman speaks volumes without ever uttering a single word. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) is brilliant as always. Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under) is sublime. Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) is equally awesome as the “real” monster.
del Toro manages to craft a beautiful love story amidst a delicate exploration of racism, handicaps, xenophobia, homophobia, political agendas and even sexual harassment.
It is a must-see.
Next on my list is:
Coco - Every time I think I am finally finished with seeing “yet another" animated movie, Pixar continues to surprise and delight me once again. Coco is amazing. It’s not just an amazing technical achievement. It is a beautiful story about the traditions behind Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). In my wildest dreams, I could not imagine that someone could pull off a children’s film about a little boy getting lost in the Land of the Dead as he searches for his great-great-grandfather. But somehow they did it... and this film is not just for children. It is engaging, heartfelt, funny and truly poignant. I loved everything about it: The music, the story, the animation, the plot twist, the message… the whole enchilada (I apologize for the bad pun). Run don’t walk to this movie. Bring your kids. Your grandkids. It’s a special treat with a beautiful message.
Okay, let’s go to television:
There was so much good television this year that it’s hard to know where to start. So I am going to go with my two most recent favorites:
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - (Amazon Prime- 1-hour comedy). It is quite possibly perfect. The cast, the production design, the brilliant writing by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) and her husband Daniel Palladino. The direction is flawless. At times it feels like a beautifully choreographed Broadway play. At other times, it feels like an homage to the "rat-a-tat" of great films with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Or maybe even Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. The costume design is nothing short of awesome. It’s a love letter to New York City and all of the great comics that came out of that era (the 1950s). It is a hilarious depiction of Jewish families and women who juggle things flawlessly… until they don’t. I can’t recommend this series enough. It is bold. It is beautiful. It is fun and it is funny. After finishing the eight episodes, I found myself a little depressed that there were no more for now. But with Golden Globe nominations and the growing buzz, I am sure there will be a lot more to come.
Schitt’s Creek - (Netflix - 1/2 hour comedy). I discovered this series late in the game. They are about to launch Season 4 and I just finished binge-watching Season 3. Eugene Levy (American Pie) and Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone) star in this series about a wealthy family who loses everything and is forced to live in a rundown motel in a town because it is the only asset they still have. It’s a modern day Green Acres meets The Beverly Hillbillies (in the reverse). While some episodes gel better than others, the series is positively addictive. David Levy (Eugene’s son) co-created it with his dad and they are hilarious. Catherine O’Hara steals every scene, but everyone is a joy to watch. The costume design is superb... as it is the only vestige of their old life, which they maintain.The incongruence of their avant-garde taste provides endless entertainment as they navigate through their new life in this charming Podunk town.