FlixChatter Review: LOVE SARAH

Love Sarah poster

We all have our comfort food, whether home-cooked or high sugar/carb variety, we can always rely on to console or uplift you. Same with comfort movies, something guaranteed to have high feel-good content to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. Well, LOVE SARAH is the kind of sweet, poignant drama that can be described as my kind of comfort movies… and in this case, the sweetness also comes in the form of all those scrumptious baked goods featured in the film!

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You know the saying how ‘an end can also be a beginning’… well, this movie starts off with a tragic loss that affects three different women. A friend, a daughter and a mother all mourn the loss of the title character. There’s the friend, Isabella (Shelley Conn) who has been waiting in front of what’s supposed to be the new space of their new bakery on the day Sarah dies in a bicycle accident. Then there’s Sarah’s mother Mimi (Celia Imrie) who’s in the middle of writing a letter when she hears the door bell rings with two policemen standing outside. Meanwhile, her daughter Clarissa (Shannon Tarbet) comes home from a dance rehearsal only to be dumped by her boyfriend, leading her to crash at the now-empty would-be bakery and later staying with her grandmother.

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It’s while she was staying with her grandma Mimi that Clarissa comes up with the idea to fulfill her dead mother’s dream of opening her own bakery. Despite Clarissa’s unbridled enthusiasm, Isabella is reluctant to start it up again… understandably so, given how devastating it was to see their original plan just shattered to pieces when her best friend passed. Mimi somehow agrees to fund the venture, so voila! the Notting Hill bakery is born. They even enlisted a Michelin-star-winning chef Matthew (Rupert Penry-Jones), an old classmate of Sarah and Isabella in culinary school.

I was immediately charmed by this movie, directed by Eliza Schroeder who’s credited with the story though its screenplay is credited to Jake Brunger. Now, the film has a certain dream-like quality, but it’s realistic enough to depict the reality of a new enterprise. People weren’t exactly lining up to get a piece of the delectable concoction featured on the store window on their first week, which means they have to get creative. For a film about a bakery, they sure don’t skimp on the scrumptious, drool-worthy treats.

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It got even more mouth-watering when Mimi proposed to transform their bakery to feature desserts from all over the world. Inspired by a delivery man from a Baltic region, she realizes the fact that London is such a big multi-cultural city filled with immigrants from various nations. Soon the bakery became the place where non-English residents can feel a little bit at home while enjoying their favorite treats from their home country. What a splendid idea, it made me wish there were a similar bakery like this exist near me! I love the baking process as Isabella and Matthew constantly learn how to create intricate desserts from places like Lisbon, Australia, Denmark, Japan, etc.

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I know that inclusivity and diversity in movies is on the rise and while that’s a wonderful thing, I also dread it when we’re hit over the head with it. Thankfully the celebration of different cultures here feels organic and natural with the worldwide baked goods practically are characters in themselves in the movie. Speaking of characters, I also love the cast! Celia Imrie and Rupert Penry-Jones are perhaps the most known to US audiences and they’re both memorable here, but I love Shelley Conn as a romantic lead. The romance between Isabella and Matthew might be predictable but they such a palpable chemistry. I also love how the entire ensemble mesh well together and effortlessly makes you root for them and this project.

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Love Sarah is a love letter to anyone who’s ever had a big dream or lost someone dear… it’s also a heartfelt story about second chances that should be relatable to anyone. I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve seen a good rom-com, plus the setting in one of my favorite European city always makes me feel warm and fuzzy. It might not be quite as witty nor bewitching as Richard Curtis’ movies, but it’s certainly got loads of charm and soothing quality that wins me over. I would’ve happily seen this on the big screen had this been released in US cinemas, but since it’s on HULU, I’m glad I can always revisit it.

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen LOVE SARAH? I’d love to hear what you think!

This Just In! Ridley Scott’s THE LAST DUEL trailer

Oohhh, what have we here? It’s been a while since I heard news about this medieval drama directed by Ridley Scott. Production was delayed in the Spring of 2020 due to what else, the Coronavirus pandemic. What’s most notable about it is that it features the reunion of Oscar-winning BFFs Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, both as screenwriters AND co-stars.

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Nicole Holofcener is also credited for writing the script, she’s too was Oscar-nominated for her screenplay Can You Ever Forgive Me? in 2019. Billed as a historical drama, the story is based on The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France, a 2004 book by American author Eric Jager which chronicles the last officially recognized judicial duel fought in France.

Full synopsis:

In 14th-century France, Marguerite de Thibouville claims she’s been raped by her husband’s best friend Jacques Le Gris. Her husband, knight Jean de Carrouges challenges his friend and squire, to trial by combat. It is the last legally sanctioned duel in France’s history.

It’s surely tough being a woman in the Middle Ages where as one female character puts it ‘The truth does not matter, there’s only the power of men.’ So for Marguerite to come forward with such a despicable accusation, she is also risking her own life as if her husband lost the duel, she would have been burned at the stake as punishment for her false accusation.

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I’m a big fan of period pieces, so this is SO right up my alley. Of course given the huge-budget for Hollywood epics, star power matter more than historical accuracy, hence not a single French actor (or even French-speaking ones) in the main cast. Apparently Damon and Affleck were supposed to play the duelist Jean and Jacques, but Adam Driver ended up being cast in Affleck’s role because of scheduling conflict with his commitment to Adrian Lyne‘s Deep Water. That would’ve been a boon for the marketing department as the two lead characters were former best-friends-turned-enemies. They also have matching bad-movie-hairstyle here, complete with bleached blond hair and… Medieval mullets? New hair memes beckons!

I LOVE Jodie Comer since Killing Eve and I also loved her in The White Princess as Elizabeth of York, so this is certainly isn’t her first foray into historical dramas. ’tis also the year for long-haired Adam Driver and I’m SO here for it!! I’m seeing ANNETTE next week (wahoo!!) and for sure I’ll be seeing this on the big screen later this Fall! In fact, he’ll have TWO films coming out this Fall that’s both directed by Ridley-Scott, the other one is the highly-anticipated House Of Gucci

The unstoppable 84-year-old British filmmaker is no stranger to historical epics, apparently his directorial debut The Duellists (1977) is also a duel between two people that’s also set in France. His longtime collaborator Dariusz Wolsk (Prometheus, The Counselor, The Martian) is back as cinematographer. The visuals look appropriately dirty, gritty and dark, a la Gladiator and Robin Hood, with filming locations include France and Ireland.

The Last Duel opens in theaters nationwide on October 15.


What do you think of the trailer? 

FlixChatter Review – Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

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The John Wick films has started a new trend in Hollywood action films. Gone are the awful shaky cam, fast editing and up-close shots during action scenes. Now we get to see careful and well-choreographed hand-to-hand combat and shootout scenes. I definitely prefer this new style of action sequences since I can’t stand the shaky cam/fast editing style of the 2000s. The downside of this new trend is that many the recent action films seem to look the same and it gets kind of boring when most action films start to imitate one another. The newest John Wick clone is called Gunpowder Milkshake from Netflix.

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Sam (Karen Gillan) is a super assassin working for an underworld organization called The Firm. On her new mission, her boss Nathan (Paul Giamatti) tasked her with retrieving money that was stolen from The Firm by an ex-employee. But the mission goes awry when she shoots the ex-employee, discovering that he needs the money to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman) from some nasty men. Making things even more complicated is that on her previous mission, Sam accidentally killed the only son of The Firm’s competitor, McAlester (Ralph Ineson). McAlester wants Sam’s head and orders his men to hunt her down. So, to avoid a full out war with another powerful firm, Nathan decided to betray Sam and let McAlester and his men take her out.

Of course, Sam won’t go down without a fight since she decided to take Emily under her wings and will need help from her mom Scarlet (Lena Headey), who abandon her when she was very young. Also, along for the ride are Scarlet’s old friends Anna May (Angela Bassett), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), and Mathilde (Carla Gugino). Now the women must use all of their skills to defend themselves against the army of McAlester’s men and also aiming to take down The Firm.

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The script is credited to Ehud Lavski and Navot Papushado, the latter also directed the picture. The story is pretty straightforward, sprinkle in some female empowerment theme and a little bit of parent and child reconciliation. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before in other action films, but I did think they should’ve beefed up the villain role. We get a little bit of sense that McAlester is a nasty individual, but we don’t really get to see his true nature. Papushado decided to give the film a comic book style and included some fun action sequences including a car chase in parking ramp and fight/shootout scene in a clinic. Since it’s a John Wick clone, the action scenes were quite brutal, so you’ll see heads gets blown off and limps gets torn apart.

I enjoyed all the performances by the main veteran actors but the one really standout performance belongs to the young and adorable Chloe Coleman. She’s the only innocence person in the entire film and the good guys will do everything to protect her. Gillan whose 5’11 frame is very believable as an action hero and she looked to have a fun time here beating up several men and shoots them in the head. The more senior ladies also looked like they had a great time doing complex fight scenes and shootouts. While he might be on the screen for only a few minutes, Giamatti was also good the caring father figure type but also a business man who has to protect The Firm at all cost. The only disappointment here is Ineson, he’s supposed to be this over-the-top villain but he’s hardly in the movie and by the time he gets to do his evil speech to our hero, it wasn’t that impressive.

Overall, this is a fun action film that will remind you of the John Wick films. If you like those films then you’ll have good time with this one.

3.5/5 Reels

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So have you seen GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE? Well, what did you think?

Interview with filmmakers of ‘The Groomsman’ comedy series – Now Available Online!

Hello readers, Ruth here! Welcome to another interview edition of MN-made comedy series The Groomsman, featuring two Minnesota filmmakers, Nick Hansen (writer/director/actor) and two producers Lindsey Kolar Martinson and Anne Hansen (who also co-wrote the script).

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The Groomsman is a rom-com about the perpetual groomsman. We’ve all seen movies about the perpetual bridesmaid…always the bridesmaid, never the bride… well this time it’s told from the male perspective just as he finally finds the woman of his dreams.

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Check out the trailer:

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Episode 1 of The Groomsman is now streaming on Hieronyvision or HV for short, a subscription-based space with content by indie artists.

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Lindsey + Nick at the Zinema Duluth, MN at a screening event for The Groomsman

Interview with director/co-writer/
star Nick Hansen

Q: First, can you tell me what The Groomsman is about?

Nick: Will Knight is the perpetual Groomsman. He has been in all of his friends and family’s weddings, over 15 of them. He has always been The Groomsman, and never the Groom. He has finally met the woman of his dreams, Courtney, and now he just has to propose. And that is where we pick up our story.

Q: I’m always intrigued by what creative people are inspired by. How did you came up with the idea for the series?

Nick: I went through a period of being a groomsman in a ton of weddings and Lindsey Kolar Martinson is my cousin and she was at a lot of those weddings. Eventually we started writing down all kinds of ideas about a possible movie or tv show involving weddings. We talked about it for about five years and then finally saw our opportunity to make it and teamed up with my mom Anne Hansen and talented filmmakers and crew from the Institute of Production and Recording and actors from the Twin Cities and went to work.

Q: Why did you decide on a tv series format vs a feature? Was the original idea always been a serialized storytelling?

Nick: We decided to make it a tv pilot because we originally made it to submit to the Catalyst TV Festival. Making a twenty-four minute tv pilot was a tremendous amount of work but was more manageable then an entire feature. Eventually, we came to realize that it works better as a pilot and we are looking forward to making more episodes.

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Anne, Nick + Lindsey at the Catalyst TV Festival, Duluth MN

Q: Tell me a bit about your character Will Knight, how much of your own persona is depicted in his portrayal? 

Nick: I don’t think much of my own persona is depicted in the portrayal but I think the one thing we have in common is looking for love, and that’s universal, and I believe that’s what the audience has been connecting with.

Q: What do you like most about playing Will? Who are your comedic/ dramatic inspirations?

Nick:I had a phenomenal time playing Will, I usually get cast as a drug dealer, or bad cop, or someone on the edge in some way, so it was amazing to play an average guy trying to make his way through the day and find love. Ultimately, I feel like the audience connected with this character more then any other because of the relatability. My comedic inspirations are Dick Van Dyke and Jim Carrey and my dramatic inspiration is Kate Winslet.

Nick on the set of The Groomsman
Nick on the set of The Groomsman

Q: As a writer/producer/actor, what’s been the most challenging part about making this pilot happen?

Nick: The most challenging part about this one is that we decided to start filming in early april and it was due to the Catalyst Festival I think on June 1 or July 1 of 2019 so it was a very compressed timeline-this made it exhilirating, but certainly stressful at times!

Q: I always enjoy filmmaking trivia, can you share a particularly memorable bts snafu that you can still laugh about today?

Nick: This is actually quite sad, but we filmed a scene at Lola’s on the Lake, the restaurant and gathering area on Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. It was an amazing location and we were happy to film there, but it burned down about a week later in a terrible fire. Hopefully it will be re-built and when we are through this pandemic it will be returned to it’s former glory.

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Will wooing Courtney in Episode 1


Interview with producer
Lindsey Martinson

Q: When did you come on board as a producer? Did Nick pitch you the idea or were you involved from its inception?

Lindsey: I was involved since inception!! However, our idea was for The Groomsman as a feature. I was on vacation in Florida when I got a call from Nick and Anne pitching The Groomsman as a tv pilot and they would like to start ASAP since we would have a tight deadline to enter into the Catalyst festival. I was happily onboard with the idea!

LindLindsey on the set of The Groomsman
Lindsey (with the clapper board) on the set of The Groomsman

Q: How’s your own profession as a small business owner prepare you to do this producing role?

Lindsey: I feel as a business professional I had many strengths to bring to the table as a producer. Due to my work background I am very organized, work well under pressure, I can easily figure out logistics of a day for scheduling and have the foresight to know when different tasks need to get done to move us to the next step. I also work well with others and am able to adapt to most situations.

Q: What did you enjoy most about working on The Groomsman and what’s the toughest part?

Lindsey: What I enjoyed most was working with my cousin Nick and Aunt Anne. They are both so talented and I felt so grateful to be apart of the team. We created memories I will never forget.

The toughest part for me was having to let go of not having some of the scenes be as perfect as I wanted. I quickly learned there is a lot that goes into shooting the scenes and can’t just be easily redone if you don’t like what you get on the first shoot being that you only have access to the actors and locations for limited amounts of time.

Q: Does this experience make you want to make more tv/movies

Lindsey: This answer is easy. YES! The whole time I was thinking why I am not doing this for my career. I love the work as a producer! I felt it was very challenging and exciting. I did have the best mentor..my cousin Nick who paved the way. I learned a lot from him!!

Q: What’s your fave shows and actors?

Lindsey: Too hard to pick just one! I love Friends. I think the writers are brilliant! I have seen all of the episodes so many times it’s always just as funny as the last time I watched it. On a whole other genre I love Peaky Blinders and would love to create something similar. I love the cinematography, the music, the actors…I just think it’s the coolest show! I also love Vikings and Game of Thrones!!

Q: What’s next for The Groomsman?

Lindsey: We are working on episode 2! We feel people want to continue watching Will Knight…will he ever find love?

Nick and his co-star Gabrielle Arrowsmith on set
Nick and his co-star Gabrielle Arrowsmith (Courtney) on set


Brief note from producer/
co-writer Anne Hansen

I am Nick’s mother and Lindsey’s aunt. I’ve been involved from the beginning! Since Nick made his first feature film in college, I have been involved in many of his filmmaking endeavors in various ways. The Groomsman was my first time, though, as an official producer and writer. Lindsey, Nick, and I have been compiling lists for years about ideas for The Groomsman. We had always planned to make it into a feature length film, but never found the time. When we finally decided to make it into a television pilot, we were off and running with it immediately.

The Groomsman is definitely a family affair. Working with Lindsey and Nick is a dream come true. Nick is the artist and Lindsey and I are pragmatic perfectionists. We make a fantastic team!

Click to see a larger version of the photo


The filmmakers are editing episode 2 now and will be filming episode 3 this summer!

….

Music Break: INCEPTION soundtrack by Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer is one of the most commercially successful composers working today. I’ve listed some of my favorite scores that he did on this post, though I should update that at some point as that list is over a decade old now. One of those on the list is INCEPTION, which was released exactly 11 years ago today in the US on July 16, 2010.

I remember being super excited for this movie, I even blogged about the promotional banners for it, and this scene spotlight of Tom Hardy‘s Ames saying ‘You musn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.’ Though the main star is Leonardo DiCaprio and it’s got a terrific ensemble cast, Hardy’s quite the scene stealer. Gosh I miss seeing that guy in movies, hope to see him in a big feature film again soon!

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In any case, Zimmer’s music is definitely one of the best things about the Christopher Nolan‘s mind-bending thriller, it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score in 2011, but lost out to The Social Network (Trent Reznor + Atticus Ross).

Per this article, apparently Zimmer wrote the score before any footage had been shot. Given Zimmer had collaborated with Nolan previously on Batman Begins & The Dark Knight, it’s likely he’s discussed the concept of dreams-within-a-dream prior to shooting the film, but still, it’s amazing how fitting the score is to the final film. I love the combination of synthesizer and orchestral with his signature low brass BRAAAAM! sound which just sounds mysterious, ominous and cool! No wonder it has since become so overused in trailers and even action movies, much to the German composer’s chagrin. In any case, here are some of my favorite tracks from INCEPTION:

Interesting trivia about the Édith Piaf song Non, je ne regrette rien that apparently was an inspiration for Zimmer in creating the score. If you remember, it’s the “kick” song to signal the characters of another reality Per NPR, “… he intentionally cribbed the two defining “da-da” notes from a slowed-down version of the Edith Piaf song Non, je ne Regrette Rien. Zimmer is quoted in his interview with The New York Times that “… all the music in the score is subdivisions and multiplications of the tempo of the Edith Piaf track. So I could slip into half-time; I could slip into a third of a time. Anything could go anywhere. At any moment I could drop into a different level of time.”

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Some of you might have seen this already, but I just learned about this recently [mind-blown!]!

Per IMDb Trivia, Nolan stated that it’s a pure coincidence that Marion Cotillard had played Piaf in La Vie En Rose (2007). After Cotillard was cast, Nolan intended to change the song to eliminate speculation on the subject, but composer Zimmer persuaded him to keep it.


Hope you enjoyed this music break! Are you a fan of INCEPTION and its soundtrack?

Musings on EMMY 2021 Nominations – The Good, the Bad + the WTF

Ok, though I’ve been blogging for over a decade, I actually haven’t really blogged much at all about the Emmys. But y’know, given we’re cooped up all of last year, my hubby and I did watch quite a bit of TV, so I thought I’d post about it after its nominations were announced yesterday morning.

Streaming services continue to dominate in terms of ratings AND quality. So HBO and HBO Max is this year’s winner with a whopping 130 total nominations, with Netflix practically breathing right behind it with 129. Disney+ has only been eligible for two years and it’s already got 71 nominations. The Crown + The Mandalorian are tied with 24 noms, followed by WandaVision with 24 and The Handmaid’s Tale with 21.

THE GOOD

  • Glad to see the racially diverse nominees across the board! Unlike the Golden Globes, the Emmys recognized the critically-acclaimed I May Destroy You and its star Michaela Coel.

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  • It’s great to see that superhero-themed series are getting recognition! Does that mean we’ll see LOKI and Tom Hiddleston‘s names amongst the nominees next year? [fingers crossed]

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  • Yay for Ted Lasso!!! I’m SO glad I watched this show, there are SO many things to love about it, some of them I’ve mentioned in this top 10 post. Can’t wait for season 2!!

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    I know the Ted Lasso team will have a giant party as practically EVERYONE from the show was nominated, not just its lead Jason Sudekis. But hey, I adore them all so I’m happy to see them all nominated, especially the two ladies Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple.

  • You’d think I’d be ho-hum to see The Crown getting so much love over and over, but you know what, hard to be blasé about such an outstanding series. Season 4 brought even more riveting drama with the arrival of Diana, so it’s great to see Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connor (Charles) both getting noms. Olivia Colman, Gillian Anderson, Helena Bonham Carter and Tobias Menzies are all phenomenal in the show.

 

  • Woot WandaVision!! Thrilled to see Elisabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany and Kathryn Hahn all nominated! Those trio are no doubt the standouts in the series.

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  • Yay for Matthew Rhys who’s terrific in Perry Mason!! He’s such a criminally underrated actor, I’d love to see him win this year.

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  • Everyone’s favorite Duke, aka Bridgerton‘s Regé-Jean Page scores his first nomination! Can’t say I’m surprised, he’s definitely the talk of the town world with his brooding, sexy portrayal.

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I kind of feel a bit sorry for Phoebe Dynevor though. Yes she’s not as memorable as the Duke, but they’re all talking about the scorching chemistry between Simon and Daphne, hey it takes two to make that happen!

  • Anya Taylor-Joy is a shoo-in for The Queen’s Gambit, and rightly so! She carried that phenomenal series and was mesmerizing to watch.

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THE BAD

  • As happy as I am that The Queens Gambit is recognized, where is Marielle Heller?? I thought she was terrific and made the character so memorable.

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  • They nominated the WRONG Black actor in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier! Where is Carl Lumbly as Isaiah Bradley? His scenes with Falcon are definitely the most emotional moments of the series that highlight the issue of racial discrimination.

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  • Dynevor isn’t the only female performer getting snubbed in Bridgerton. I feel like there is room to nominate at least one or two more actors in the supporting category. How about Claudia Jessie (Eloise) or Nicola Coughlan (Penelope)? Eloise especially always makes me laugh with her non-conformist attitude.

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  • One of the recent shows I absolutely enjoyed, Shadow & Bone, got no love 😦 Given how few performers of Asian-descent getting nominated this year, it would’ve been nice to see the Chinese-British actress Jessica Mei Li on the list. This beautifully-shot fantasy series also boasts some of the most stunning production design and gorgeous costumes!

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  • Glad to see OSLO getting a nod, it’s quite a riveting drama about the secret negotiation of the Oslo Accords, but sad that both Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott were snubbed.

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  • Lastly, in the Variety Talk series, am I the only one who appreciates Late Night With Seth Meyers? It might not be as flashy as the others being nominated, but there’s a refreshing earnest-ness about Seth and he is a great interviewer! I’ve come to enjoy watching his show over the years, much more so than his fellow SNL-alum-turned-talk-host Jimmy Fallon.

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THE WTF

Ok I’m not going to dwell on the negatives… so it’s just these three:

  • Don Cheadle got nominated for basically a 3-minute cameo in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier!! Ahah, even the actor himself is confused!! I certainly hope the voters isn’t confusing him with the more deserving nominee Anthony Mackie, I mean, come on!!

  • Emily in Paris??? Good gracious, THIS again??

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  • Now, I’m thrilled The Mandalorian gets a nod in Best Drama Series, but sad that the fantastic Pedro Pascal kept getting overlooked!! Did Emmy voters think that since he wore a helmet for most of the series that he wasn’t acting?? It’s akin to mo-cap acting where the actor would still have to act with their body.

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In any case, here are the full nominees:

Outstanding Drama Series

The Boys

Bridgerton

The Crown

The Mandalorian

Lovecraft Country

Pose

The Handmaid’s Tale

This Is Us

Outstanding Comedy Series

Black-ish

Cobra Kai

Pen15

Emily in Paris

Hacks

Ted Lasso

The Flight Attendant

The Kominsky Method

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Regé-Jean Page, Bridgerton

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Billy Porter, Pose

Jonathan Majors, Lovecraft Country

Matthew Rhys, Perry Mason

Josh O’Connor, The Crown

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Emma Corrin, The Crown

Olivia Colman, The Crown

Uzo Aduba, In Treatment

Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale

Jurnee Smollett, Lovecraft Country

Mj Rodriguez, Pose

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Michael K. Williams, Lovecraft Country

Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale

Max Minghella, The Handmaid’s Tale

O-T Fagbenle, The Handmaid’s Tale

John Lithgow, Perry Mason

Tobias Menzies, The Crown

Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian

Chris Sullivan, This Is Us

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Gillian Anderson, The Crown

Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown

Emerald Fennell, The Crown

Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale

Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale

Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale

Madeline Brewer, The Handmaid’s Tale

Aunjanue Ellis, Lovecraft Country

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish

Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method

William H. Macy, Shameless

Kenan Thompson, Kenan

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Aidy Bryant, Shrill

Jean Smart, Hacks

Allison Janney, Mom

Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant

Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Bowen Yang, Saturday Night Live

Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live

Brett Goldstein, Ted Lasso

Brendan Hunt, Ted Lasso

Nick Mohammed, Ted Lasso

Jeremy Swift, Ted Lasso

Paul Reiser, The Kominsky Method

Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Hacks

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live

Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live

Rosie Perez, The Flight Attendant

Hannah Einbinder, Hacks

Hannah Waddingham, Ted Lasso

Juno Temple, Ted Lasso

Outstanding Limited Series

Mare of Easttown

I May Destroy You

WandaVision

The Queen’s Gambit

The Underground Railroad

Outstanding Television Movie

Uncle Frank

Sylvie’s Love

Oslo

Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on The Square

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Paul Bettany, WandaVision

Hugh Grant, The Undoing

Ewan McGregor, Halston

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Kate Winslet, Mare of Easttown

Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You

Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit

Elizabeth Olsen, WandaVision

Cynthia Erivo, Genius: Aretha

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Jean Smart, Mare of Easttown

Julianne Nicholson, Mare of Easttown

Kathryn Hahn, WandaVision

Phillipa Soo, Hamilton

Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton

Moses Ingram, The Queen’s Gambit

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Daveed Diggs, Hamilton

Jonathan Groff, Hamilton

Anthony Ramos, Hamilton

Thomas Brodie-Sangster, The Queen’s Gambit

Evan Peters, Mare of Easttown

Paapa Essiedu, I May Destroy You

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Courtney B. Vance, Lovecraft Country

Charles Dance, The Crown

Don Cheadle, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Timothy Olyphant, The Mandalorian

Carl Weathers, The Mandalorian

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale

Mckenna Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale

Claire Foy, The Crown

Phylicia Rashad, This Is Us

Sophie Okonedo, Ratched

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live

Dave Chappelle, Saturday Night Live

Daniel Kaluuya, Saturday Night Live

Dan Levy, Saturday Night Live

Morgan Freeman, The Kominsky Method

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Maya Rudolph, Saturday Night Live

Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live

Issa Rae, A Black Lady Sketch Show

Jane Adams, Hacks

Bernadette Peters, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Yvette Nicole Brown, A Black Lady Sketch Show

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

Conan

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Jimmy Kimmel Live

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver


So what do YOU think of EMMY noms this year?

TV Review: The Little Drummer Girl (2018) mini series starring Florence Pugh

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One of my TV viewing highlights in May I mentioned in my monthly recap was The Little Drummer Girl. I happened to watch quite a bit of TV that month (seven different series to be exact) and this spy thriller was definitely a standout. The fact that it’s based on John le Carré‘s novel appealed to me, but one of the main reasons to see this was definitely Florence Pugh. It was also partly in anticipation for Black Widow, in which Pugh was the absolute scene stealer.

Here’s the premise:

As a Palestinian assassin is targeting prominent Israelis, a young English actress is recruited by Mossad to infiltrate the assassin’s terrorist cell, requiring all of her acting talents but also putting her at considerable risk.

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The novel has been adapted as a feature film previously with the same name in 1984, starring Diane Keaton and directed by George Roy Hill. Per Wiki, the title suggests a word play on the Christmas carol The Little Drummer Boy. I haven’t seen that version, but I often think a miniseries is a great format for complex novel as it’s able to delve deeper into the story and characters more than a 2-hour film would. Another reason to see this is for the director, Park Chan-Wook, who apparently is a big fan of Le Carré’s work. Though he’s mostly known as a feature director, it’s interesting that he hasn’t done a feature since this miniseries as he’s been busy producing the Snowpiercer series for TNT.

It’s quite rare to see a Le Carré’s novel with a female protagonist, in fact, I think this is the only one. Well, nice to see such a formidable actress to play the leading lady. Pugh plays Charlie Ross, a young British theatre actress with a bohemian spirit with a pretty radical political view, born more out of naïveté than anything else. In her spare time, she and her fellow leftist-leaning friends attend recruitment meetings by anti-Zionist terrorist cell. It’s implied that it’s the same group responsible for the bomb attack on a high-ranking Israeli official in Germany seen in its opening scene. Charlie is soon caught the attention of Mossad aka Israeli intelligence service, who’s planning a meticulous clandestine operation to infiltrate the terrorist cell group led by Palestinian bomb maker named Khalil (Charif Ghattas).

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You could say that Le Carrés spy thriller is the anti-Bond movies as the spy in question doesn’t effortlessly go about their business, participating in high-octane, hyperbolic action while leading a glamorous, globe-trotting existence. Le Carré brings more realism to the espionage genre, and in this particular story, I love the the meticulous planning of a dangerous mission that’d really put the spy’s life at risk where things can easily go wrong at any moment. In a Bond movie, we know he’d never be killed (despite the movie titles having the word ‘die’ in it), but there’s a higher degree of unpredictability in Le Carré ‘s work. The fact that at times we don’t know which side Charlie is on at any given moment adds to the level of anxiety.

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Episode one is basically Charlie recruitment process and it’s an intriguing set up. A mysterious stranger (Alexander Skarsgård) turns up at her London play, then she spots him at the same beach in Greece where she is vacationing with her theater group. Turns out his name is Gadi and he manages to convince the group he’s also a fellow actor. There’s quite a scorching chemistry between Pugh and Skarsgård whose tall and slender built offers a captivating contrast to the petite actress. The scene at the Acropolis is absolutely stunning, a perfect location to get someone under a spell! Before she knows what’s happening, Gadi brings her to the mission leader, Martin (Marty) Kurtz, played by bespectacled Michael Shannon sporting an Israeli accent. The no-nonsense Mossad officer introduces himself as ‘the writer, producer, and director of this little show’ and welcomes her to the ‘theater of the real.’ At the core of spycraft is making people believe who you want people to believe, so I suppose actors make for a good spy given their ability to inhabit a persona and ‘lie’ undetected. 

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A spy thriller is most effective when the stakes are genuinely high, especially involving someone who isn’t even a trained spy! The Mossad puts Charlie’s life at risk, and they made it seemingly impossible for her to say no. But of course, that element of danger can be appealing, even sexy, for certain personalities, and Kurtz somehow knows Charlie has a predilection for risky business. Gadi has a challenging task of not just training Charlie, but to permeate her mind that he is not Gadi but Michel (Amir Khoury), Khalil’s brother, and that she is his lover. Writers Michael Lesslie and Claire Wilson crafted an intriguing narrative device using Gadi’s recorded dialogue as if he were speaking as Michel. It can get a bit confusing at times, it’s as if as a viewer you’re also given a puzzle to solve. I appreciate that the filmmaker respects the viewers’ intelligence enough not to spoon feed everything.

This isn’t the type of spy thrillers that just rely on frenetic action and fight scenes to drive the story forward. In fact, there are times the pacing is pretty slow with not much happening, but I always find it suspenseful. There’s an immersive quality in the way Chan-wook directs this series and lots to appreciate visually. Despite being set in the 70s, the director didn’t automatically go with a more desaturated look associated with a ‘retro’ film set in that era. Instead he incorporates a rich colorful palette throughout. Charlie’s dresses have such bold, vivid colors: canary yellow, cobalt blue, lime green, etc. and even the Mercedes sedan is in striking red. I read this article about the color symbolism, Chan-wook said it was exciting to be able to portray that period with bold colors given he grew up in South Korea in a time he described as “quite dark and very repressed.”

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The star of the show is Pugh, whose charismatic presence is always mesmerizing to watch. She’s a naturally confident actor but her vulnerability is just as alluring as her self-assured performance. There’s a scene where her facade is exposed earlier in the show that’s pretty emotionally-charged, and she only gets better from there. Charlie is a layered, complex character and she definitely sells the role wonderfully. She’s surrounded by a terrific cast who brought their A-game to this. I’m equally impressed with Shannon who’s the mastermind of the whole mission and despite his ruthless approach, you can’t help but sympathize with him. As for Skarsgård, I don’t usually find him as irresistible like many women, but I quite like his brooding performance here and I think that’s a testament to how his character is written. I was quite captivated by Ghattas as Khalil who’s definitely not your typical one-dimensional baddie. Simona Brown (who’s excellent in Behind Her Eyes), Michael Moshonov, Clare Holman all have some memorable moments that make up Kurtz’s spy team.

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As far as spy series go, The Little Drummer Girl ranks as one of the best I’ve ever seen and Pugh is definitely one of my absolute favorite actors working today. I actually think this is a much better adaptation than The Night Manager (2016), another one from Le Carré’s oeuvre I saw last year. It’s an atmospheric concoction that mixes mystery, suspense and drama remarkably well. Given the continuing escalating conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, it also makes this series all the more timely. I can’t recommend this enough and it made me crave even more spy mini series!

4.5/5 stars


Have you seen The Little Drummer Girl mini series? I’d love to hear what you think!