By Anne Brodie
Fargo Year Four arrives Sunday with a satchel full of origins history. Noah Hawley takes us south to Kansas City in 1950 from where the Black, Irish and Italian gangs run their widespread criminal activities – right up to Winnipeg! This series retains its wonky history, often philosophical humour, outstanding characters and exploration into the wonders of human behaviour. There’s a “futurist” gang leader (Chris Rock), a wicked nurse (Jessie Buckley), a tiny Italian Godfather (Jason Schwartzman) hanging on by a thread with the arrival of his extra-large cousin from Italy, a brainy Black girl (E’myri Lee Crutchfield) who smells BIG trouble, a detective who manages to operate despite crippling tics (Jack Huston), a Biblical and smutty copper (Timothy Olyphant), lesbian scofflaws apparently able to survive gunshots and poison (Kelsey Asbille and Karen Aldridge) and Fargo’s signature collection of oddballs who wander into its dangerous territory. Fargo musical themes are hinted at and as ever, people we care for die violent if creative deaths. On FX and FX on Hulu.
The Artist’s Wife stars Lena Olin and Bruce Dern are Claire and Richard Smythson a married couple living in privilege in a modernist Hamptons beach house. He’s a renowned abstract painter about to mount an exhibit of his new works. She’s increasingly concerned about him following his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. He is volatile, forgetful, and confused. He’s ordered a $94K clock and her bank cards are cut off. It is unlikely Richard will be able to finish his new work; he’s distracted and drunk most of the time. Claire’s trying to repair his relationship with his long-estranged daughter before he gets worse, and it’s not working. She’d given up her career as an artist for him, but secretly rents a studio to work out her frustrations and express herself. It’s a melancholic and quiet film, and it’s also elegant and beautiful like Claire. Her frustrations in dealing with a man of Richard’s character and disease are wearing, she must constantly be on the lookout for him. She has the patience of a saint, and in return, he insults her and hits her. Where does her forbearance come from? Such strength of character. It’s a portrait of life-saving grace and love. Written and directed with compassion by Thomas Dolby and featuring an appearance by Stephanie Powers. In Theatres.
Tesla a nutty, shapeshifting take on the life of Nikola Tesla has a backstory that’s its own movie. It’s an “Idiosyncratic Portrait Of The Misunderstood Electrical Engineering Genius” from writer, director and Tesla aficionado Michael Almereyda is described by Indiewire as informed by “The Films Of Derek Jarman, The Novels Of Henry James And Certain Episodes Of Drunk History”. OK. Ethan Hawke is the Serbian-born inventor, electrical and futurist who captured energy with his invention of alternating currents, the electricity we use today, a poetic soul trapped in an obsessed seeker’s mind. Kyle MacLachlan, Eve Hewson, Jim Gaffigan, Hannah Gross + Ebon Moss-Bachrach co-star as mucky mucks of the era who encouraged and financed his radical inventions. Meet Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, J.P. Morgan and strap yourself in for a hallucinatory, wonky, and outrageous ride, an experiment if you like. Theatres and On Demand.
Keira Knightley and Gugu Mbatha-Raw headline the fact-based Misbehaviour a look at the 1970 London beauty pageant, and its unintended consequences as a rallying cry for women’s lib. Knightley plays Sally, an accomplished academic and single mother who can’t get by an all-male board to land a teaching position at London College. Her wildcat friend Jo played (Jessie Buckley), organises radical protests, including the disruption of the upcoming Miss United Kingdom contest, hosted by Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear). Mbatha-Raw’s Jennifer represents South Africa and sees the irony of the racist and sexist event, even as it offers her a life-changing opportunity. A reporter is thrown out of a press conference for asking about apartheid, a bomb explodes outside the hall, and the protests effectively take the show off the air, making international news. Keeley Hawes is a standout as the pageant owner’s wife and Lesley Manville’s Mrs. Bob Hope has sweet revenge. It bites off more than it can chew, but it is an interesting nugget on Britain’s nascent women’s movement.
BritBox celebrates the 25th anniversary of the release of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice with an all-digitized restoration. This six-episode series made young unknown Colin Firth an international heartthrob as Fitzwilliam Darcy with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet. Absolutely Fabulous’ Saffy, Julia Sawalha, plays Lydia Bennet and a young Emilia Fox is Georgiana Darcy. From IMDb “a scene showing Firth in a wet shirt was recognised as one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history”. I remember it well.
Cute alert!! Disney+’s Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom produced by National Geographic and narrated Josh Gad is one of the most joyous screen entertainments to come along lately. Cameras follow park staff as they feed, heal, birth, and enjoy the 5000 animals that live Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT. Eight episodes cover the wide word of some of the 300 species, and 5000 animals that call Disney Florida home. Disney’s conservation efforts include helping keep species from extinction in the zoos, developing groundbreaking medical and existential care options, creating animal awareness campaigns across Africa, and educating children about the bounty and beauty of Mother Nature. We are present at several births, softening the hardest hearts. One of my favourite moments is seeing the look on the face of the staffer in charge of the rare babirusas, aka deer-pigs, as he sees the ultrasound confirming his little gal is pregnant. There’s a tiger who takes commands when he’s examined by the doctor, and so many more moments.
Renowned English Israeli baker, chef, author, and producer Yotam Ottolenghi take us to a dessert lover’s paradise in the fittingly lavish documentary Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles. There’s to be an exhibit in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of patisserie inspired by life in the court of Louis XIV, circa 1670s. Ottolenghi picks chefs from around the world known for their innovation in the art of cake making. These cakes must be seen to be believed. Not only must they recall the decadence and endless money of Versailles, but they must also appeal to the modern eye, so there are some odd mashups and some stunning artworks. Learned some interesting facts. Pastry crusts were invented to preserve the food inside them, food in a pyramid shape tastes better, or so he says, French cuisine and international influences of the embassies housed in Versailles shaped the tradition of French cooking. Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games at Versailles, outside its walls was poverty and death, there was resentment for the court as common people were allowed in, the King couldn’t afford upkeep on his grounds and palace. And then one day it ended with the French revolution. Highly informative doc, but I can’t say it made me hungry. Strange. Tickets here https://www.ottolenghimovie.com
The new APTN series Amplify does just that, amplify indigenous voices through literature, music, and the lovely arts. Métis/Cree singer-songwriter Cheryl L’Hirondelle writes a song about existing in “a cycle of reciprocity with the living universe” – so moving, and author Robin Wall Kimmerer reads aloud from her beautifully provocative book Braiding Sweetgrass, Métis/Cree songwriter, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, sets out to write a new song that considers how to exist in a cycle of reciprocity with the living universe. Shane Belcourt directs the episode called Our Mother’s Voice. Various directors and contributors make this essential viewing.