Sunday, May 30, 2021

RIP Gavin MacLeod, 1931 - 2021.

The passing of this TV and movie legend reminds us of the terrific interview we featured here some years ago with Mr. MacLeod. Please check it out here.  

Thursday, December 3, 2020

BLACK NARCISSUS ON FX REVIEW


The words written here are the opinions of the writer of this post. They may not necessarily reflect the ideas, worldviews or opinions of other writers associated with this blog. 

I am someone who needs to be motivated with passion in order to write at this point in life. This has not been a year of great television offerings. Of the premieres in 2020 that stand out I point to the EPIX series, Belgravia which aired earlier this year; and the superbly crafted Barkskins on National Geographic which supplied some of the finest television hours of any year, let alone this sordid and soiled year known forevermore as 2020. 

It is always a sweet kick to encounter anything on television that gets me excited enough - to write about it. I will start by saying I am a sucker for romance and true love, but we rarely get romance or true love in filmed entertainment anymore. Ask yourself when you last saw a credible romantic drama or romantic comedy that pulled at your heart, mind and soul. We women are supposedly engulfed by the incompetent, dull, pointless, shallow and repetitive "movies" on Hallmark Channel, UP TV and Lifetime. The nonsense that passes for entertainment in these storylines are too mindless for words. I want to witness people falling in love. I want to experience two actors with chemistry working together. I want romance. If you like Hallmark films, please forgive me. 

The storyline of a nun having some thoughts about a man have been told in the past. The 1958 film, The Nun's Story featuring Audrey Hepburn and Peter Finch comes to mind. Finch certainly wanted to snuggle up with the always stunning Hepburn. His attempt at entrapment is featured in a couple of scenes and you cheered for Finch and hoped he would succeed in getting Audrey to leave the nunnery. She eventually does leave the convent, but not to run into the arms of Finch. Back in high school there was this wild for the day plot on the daytime drama, The Young and the Restless. A former prostitute named Gwen Sherman became a nun, but Snapper Foster (yes, that was the character's name) fell in love with her. What's a girl to do?  Nothing in this case, but I was cheering on Snapper to get the girl. When I was in high school we had a "lounge" where we could watch television or listen to music during class breaks. Needless to say, this was a short-lived storyline, but since I was at a private Catholic school I was cheering on the good-looking nun connecting with the even better looking Snapper. I say this as a person of deep faith, so do not think I am some agnostic or atheist who doesn't take the concept of redemption or forgiveness seriously. The Cross of Christ is the defining meaning of the Christian faith. For me, Jesus is all, so my secret heart desire to see nuns being tempted by attractive men is not some sinful desire. Oh, on the contrary. We all have a purpose, but in the stories of the women in The Young and the Restless and in The Nun's Story women who were never called to this vocation shouldn't have pursued it. This was not their vocation. They chose this path even though it had absolutely nothing to do with their faith. I will not reveal why Sister Clodagh (lead character in Black Narcissus) was not called to the vocation. You have to watch her say it in her own words. 

Which brings us to Black Narcissus. The novel of Black Narcissus was released in the 1930's and it clearly riled up the Catholic church. British writer, Rumer Godden wrote the novel and his novel was adapted into a screenplay for the 1947 film of the same name. The elegant and gifted actress Deborah Kerr played the nun and she was clearly tempted by the character of Mr. Dean. The original film was hesitant to showcase too much give and take between the two lead characters, but that was 73 years ago. The 2020 version of Black Narcissus stars Gemma Arterton and Allesandro Nivola. Arterton and Nivola are both superb actors and each has been around for quite some time. If you have never seen the delightful $5 a Day check it out. Nivola shines in a comedic role which is the opposite of what he does in Black Narcissus

This version is three hours long and it manages to pair the two actors in multiple scenes. Their chemistry is as untarnished as any attachment one has seen in recent years. You feel their near magnetic pull from their first encounter. The relationship builds from the back and forth insults which aren't necessarily insults, but are fastballs meant to test the other's metal. They build on those first wild pitches to an actual growing trust and eventual respect. The moment a man or woman falls for a man or woman, because of his/her character is when you know it is love. It is one of those rare gems I will watch again; and I rarely watch anything more than once. In this case, I will look forward to waiting a bit and then dive back in to watch two people falling in love. 

The final scene (I will not give too much here) is poetic. It is a well written final five minutes. Everything is provided in the final moments of this wonderfully artistic and crafted three hour mini-series. One can tell you they love you without them ever mouthing the words. One can display unbridled pride with the smirk of a lower lip. One can expose a hope craved for without ever saying the actual words. One can anticipate one's next move with a play on words. It is all in the phrasing. If you have ever been in love, real love, you will know the meanings behind the looks and the words. On-screen chemistry is rare and on-screen romance and love have unfortunately become even rarer. Jane Austen only wrote so many novels. Today, it is seemingly "uncool" to fall in love. If you have been there, treasure it and then watch Black Narcissus on FX or FX on HULU.

If a scene rivals the final five minutes it is the scene between Sister Clodagh and Mr. Dean near the end of episode two. Brilliant writing and acting and two characters never knew each other better.

If I get my way, it will be such a huge hit they will run dangerously toward a sequel. Sister Clodagh admits many things. 

A deep and genuine love story; and a powerful and beautiful piece of filmmaking. 

Black Narcissus was written by Amanda Coe and directed by Charlotte Bruus Christensen.

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2020

Friday, July 24, 2020

TV During the Covid 19 Pandemic: Episode 2: Animal Documentaries!

Animal Documentaries
(Part 2 of the continuing series..."what can I watch during the Pandemic?")



If you're like thousands of other people around the world with a bit more time on your hands because of the Covid-19 Pandemic lock down, then you've probably spent a good portion of it grazing through YouTube for heartwarming animal videos.  There's a whole sub-genre on its own and one that often helps to fill the hole in your lonely locked-down heart with dogs who are friends with donkeys, baby ducks mothered by confused cats, and Labradors with hilarious Scottish sports casters to call play by play on their bone toss.

Videos are great, but sometimes you need a longer format to quench the endless need for cuteness and pretty and big soulful animal eyes.  That's where these next three documentaries come in, all currently featured on Amazon Prime.  Each one is about an hour.  Enjoy!




A few years ago my son and I had a chance to visit Iceland with some friends.  We drove our rented SUV through the frozen volcanic fields and marveled over the geysers, geo-thermal hot water pools and waterfalls. It all seemed beautiful, yet barren and other worldly...until we passed a semi green meadow (it was March) and saw our first real Icelandic wild life.  Ponies!  Hundreds of little horses who looked as if they'd all been styled for an 80's hair band revival.  Still sporting winter coats and glam-rock manes, there were herds of Icelandic horses in every color of the rainbow.

Now you can see some of the prettiest ones in a sweet little documentary that focuses on people who do a cowboy-ish drive of many horses to bring them to a summer pasture.  We also get to meet the people from Iceland who breed, show, shelter and love these versatile little equines. They are gorgeous creatures; spirited yet gentle with a fancy natural gait that enables them to lift their front feet very high like they are prancing.  You can imagine that trait developing from an evolutionary perspective, as they have had hundreds of years to forge their way through Iceland's drifts of snow.



This urban animal gem has been out for several years but now gets wide exposure on Amazon Prime.  It follows the dedicated (some might say obsessed) bird watchers of New York, who live to view and record some of the over 200 species of birds that make Central Park either their part time or full time home.  New York bird watchers cross the spectrum of every type of person.  Never think you can pigeon-hole (no pun intended) an NYC bird watcher.  There are regular older white dudes who look like they'd be more at home on a golf course but their piles of expensive camera equipment give them away as birders.  There are little old ladies, one in particular who has been doing it for so long she even leads guided tours and keeps booklets of sightings going back decades. There's the famous author Jonathan Franzen who seems a bit surprised to find himself a devout birder. There's even the wonderful African American Ivy League enthusiast Chris Cooper, who some may have seen in a recent viral video during his encounter with a "Karen" who thought she would report him to 911 because he asked her to leash her dog.  One of the least stereotypical birders featured in this documentary was a teen girl, who took great pains to explain why being a birder wasn't "nerdy" but who ultimately had to admit, "yeah, it sort of is".

Who would have dreamed that a little plot of land inside one of the biggest cities in the world could host such a menagerie of winged friends?  There are cardinals, woodpeckers, finches and ducks.  There are hawks who build their nests in the high rises,  including the celebrity raptor, "Pale Male".  In an inspired touch, each of the birds featured in the documentary has its own credit at the end of the show.

I was inspired by this doc to purchase a bird feeder and little bird bath for my back yard.  It's a fairly inexpensive Pandemic lock down activity, so I definitely recommend it, as long as you don't have outside cats.  So far my most dominant "customer" is an "Anna's Hummingbird" who likes to stick her beak into the bright orange Firecracker flowers I'm growing in a pot.
Sally: My hummingbird


Cat Heaven Island (The kitties of Japan)



Full disclosure, there are many documentaries about cats in Japan floating about in Stream-Land lately.  Some focus on Cat Cafes, some on cat religions and some on feral cat communities.  Do Japanese people love cats?  That would be a hard yes, and one more reason for me to have visiting Japan on my travel bucket list.  But for now, nobody is traveling during Pandemic lockdown.  As of mid July 2020, Americans are not even allowed to visit Canada, Mexico or most of Europe due to our high rate of Covid 19. So we will have to be content to watch the Japanese cat docs in our living rooms with our own personal cats standing by.

Cat Heaven Island focuses on the cats of Tashirojima, a tiny rock off the coast of Japan.  Once a bustling fishing village, it's now mostly home to a handful of seniors and over 100 cats.  The kitties seem to be well fed and happy, getting hand outs of fish parts from the few remaining fisherman and additional meals from the doting seniors.  Everyone seems to wish that more young people would come and make this island their permanent home, but for now they content themselves with boatloads of tourists who come over from the mainland to see the cats.

If you're an animal fan, you'll find something to love about each of these special documentaries.  However, there's also a surprising bonus that threads its way through all three.  The humans that spend their lives with these critters couldn't possibly be more different; the cheerful Scandinavians in Iceland, the sophisticated New Yorkers and the quiet Japanese seniors in the sunset of their lives.  All of them are just as lovable as the furred and feathered friends that they follow.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Craving TV During Covid-19 Days: Episode 1--Competitions!

To The Winner Goes the Lava Lamp!
...or maybe a lovely piece of cake




Background
It's mid July 2020 and we are watching the end of the world as we know it unfold.  For the past four and a half months, the Earth has been consumed with a life and death battle against a new Corona virus called Covid-19.  As of today, a total of 3.4 million Americans have gotten sick with it, while 136,000 have died.  World wide, over half a million people have passed away due to this strange and deadly pandemic.  There is not one facet of life here in the U.S. unaffected by the scourge. Thousands of unessential businesses have been shut down.  Millions of people are unemployed.  In California you can't go out to a bar, or restaurant or fitness center or (most horrible for me) movie theater.  This could actually kill theater movie going as we know it.  All concert events, festivals, parades, beaches and even your own backyard party is....cancelled.  Just yesterday they announced there would be no Rose Parade for the first time in over 70 years.  If you do go out to a grocery store, you have to wear a mask.  This is because the disease is spread by aerosol droplets from people breathing or talking or coughing.  How does Covid-19 kill?  It turns your lungs to glass, it sends blood clots through your body, it shuts down vital organs, sometimes the kidneys or even the brain.  Often for kids or young adults, it does nothing at all or maybe just takes your sense of smell and taste away.  How can you tell if you'll be asymptomatic or one of the poor souls dying alone on a respirator?  Nobody knows. It's like the lottery. Covid-19 is a big fat mystery and that's why thousands of people are hunkered down at home with the whites of their eyes showing.  They call it "Sheltering in Place" or "Lockdown", and basically it means that unless you're an essential worker, you ain't going nowhere.  Welcome to our Apocalypse.  We always thought it would be Zombies, but instead it's a virus, round as a beach ball and sprouting tiny red maple tree spikes made out of protein.

So why is this post appearing on the Flaming Nose?  Because staying home and watching television is one of the few things that people can still do to help them forget about the danger lurking just outside their door.  And now, thanks to streaming over the Internet, there's more TV to watch than ever before.  Add Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, CBS Interactive, Disney Plus and Apple TV to the already rich roster of broadcast and cable TV programming, and there is enough to keep us distracted for a while.  To help our 12 readers sort it all out, The Nose is unfurling a series, starting with a couple of reality TV competition shows; Floor is Lava and the Great British Bake Off.  Since when does Jane K. care even a tiny bit about reality TV?  Well, as it happens, my brain has gone as soft as a good brie worrying about Pandemic stuff, and it's very soothing to be drawn to the sparkle of either mindless fun (Lava) or sugar filled artistry (Bake Off).

Floor is Lava
It's so simple, yet so compelling and hilarious.  Based on the children's game and hosted by a very affable Rutledge Wood, "Lava" consists of three teams of three people each who must use their wits, athletic skills and team work to cross an obstacle course.  The objects they use are slippery, the challenge is great, but not impossible.  Bubbling away underneath it all, is a lake of psychedelic red orange "lava".  If a contestant slips, they sink below the red waves, never to be seen again until the end of the show.  This is the best part and where the folks watching at home can scream and scream.  Who doesn't love lava?  I've read that the producers keep the red liquid very hot, just shy of scalding, so that it's shocking for the contestants, but doesn't kill them.  How awesome is that?  I sometimes wonder if they've added a flavor to the lava lake.  Maybe strawberry daiquiri or Buffalo hot wings?

The teams are made up of people who are connected somehow in real life.  A mom and two grown kids, a trio of bros who work out together, doctors and nurses at a hospital.  You can cheer on your favorite team or make bets on which one is going to win.  Winners get to split $10,000 and (what else) a lava lamp.  I think the latter is the only flaw in this show.  Lava lamps are not expensive, I think each of the three contestants on the team should get their own lava lamp so they won't fight.

Floor is Lava is one of the most popular programs on Netflix right now and I can certainly see why.  It's silly, mindless and exciting.  The perfect distraction from non-stop thinking about doomsday!



The Great British Bake Off
While the lava show is brand new, BBC's Great British Bake Off has just completed it's tenth season.  You can find several past seasons to view on Netflix.  Some of England's top pastry chefs as well as regular folks with talent compete to see who has the best skills to create cakes, cookies and crumpets, all underneath an enormous tent while the clock is ticking away.  Each contestant has a mini-kitchen where they create their sugary masterpieces.  They generally have to stick to a particular theme, although they can vary it as their creativity dictates.  So everyone has to make a type of scone, or theme birthday cake or fruit cake, etc.  After each segment, the judges come around to taste and rate the various efforts.  It sounds simple enough but sometimes things get so bollixed up (great British slang for a complete cluster f#$4&k;) the contestants actually cry.  There's a lot of drama involved in making cakes.  Sometimes a bit too much.  If you find yourself feeling tense while viewing, it's best to take it in measured doses. One contestant is voted off the show by the judges at the end of each episode.  The last one standing at the end of the season is the winner.

The judges in the Bake Off are delightful, ranging from either stern and matronly to eccentric.  One judge (English comedian Noel Fielding) provides occasional comic relief and is often dressed in black from head to toe like a Goth.

You might want to throw your mask on and stock up on some sweets before viewing. The cakes look extra fancy and delicious though, so you'll be disappointed if all you have is a Twinkie in the house.  I recommend pairing with Trader Joe's purple Ube icecream and an almond cookie.





Stay tuned for more helpful Covid-19 Pandemic viewing tips going forward.  Your faithful Nose writers will be sifting through thousands of programs to help you find the best ones to keep the Heebie Jeebies away.  Why not?  We're locked in too, so there's nothing else to do!