Tons of work done this weekend. I finished off a 6000-word piece for a project that is still pending. The publisher is waiting for the green light but once it’s given we have to hit the ground running so I went to work “on spec.” Hope everything comes through or else it will all be for naught. I still have a short story to edit by the end of the week and a 1000-word piece that’s due in less than two weeks, so busy, busy, busy.
We saw Argo on Friday night. I have a vivid memory of the incident from when it happened, and also have been strongly influenced by Canada’s part in it, which has long been a point of national pride. The former ambassador, Ken Taylor, was sufficiently miffed after the film debuted at a festival in Toronto that he requested a change to the end card. It’s not the sort of film one might expect to win a best picture award, which it did, but it’s a good caper film. It’s a good trick, making something suspenseful when you know in advance the outcome. John Goodman is always good in his little comic-relief roles, and Alan Arkin was great, too, and ended up with an Oscar nomination for his troubles. Good to see Bryan Cranston with a full head of hair again, and Kyle Chandler, who was also in Zero Dark Thirty.
On Saturday, we went out to the cinema to see Quartet, which was a cute film about getting old. It takes place in a retirement home for aging musicians, and is Dustin Hoffman’s first gig as a movie director. The story problem is the fact that they need to raise enough money at their annual gala to keep the place open for another year, so they need a big name draw to replace the one they lost recently. The big name comes in the form of Maggie Smith’s character, a former opera singer, but her arrival also spells trouble for her ex-husband, who is still in love with her but can’t get over his anger at her. Michael Gambon is funny as the self-proclaimed gala director, dressed in long flowing gowns, getting manicures and lounging about as if he’s the King of Siam. It’s Billy Connolly, though, who really fires up this film. He’s also a former opera singer but he had a stroke recently that has robbed him of his inhibitions, so he’s non-stop lewd and raunchy. In lesser hands, his character might have been creepy, but Connolly is so disarming and charming that it works. Many of the secondary characters are played by real-life former musicians. Next to the closing credits we get to see them now and as they were in their heydays. The film bears obvious comparisons to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, though the setting is less exotic. Nevertheless, it’s a feel-good film and the major crises are not drawn out beyond their respective shelf lives.
One of the dramatic aspects of The Amazing Race is how you can go from first to last quickly, but also regain hours of lost time without a great deal of effort. The two teams that were four hours behind going into the leg were instantly only 90 minutes behind because of boat schedules and they both managed to finish ahead of two non-penalized teams. You can forget your gear at the top of the hill and have to take the boat all the way back to the island and still catch up to other teams. Or you can take a wrong turn with your jet ski and get lost enough that you almost lose. Or an innate fear of water can spell the end. It’s a shame that the twins didn’t pick the other challenge, because they aced that one after waffling about for hours about the oyster dive. Bora Bora is now high on my list of dream vacations.
I watched the first couple of hours of the Oscars last night (what was that, about a third of the show?). I had no idea who Seth MacFarlane was going into it. I’ve never seen Ted or any of the animated series he’s known for, and I’m less inclined to check them out now than I was before. I know a lot of people found him funny, and I confess that I did laugh a few times, but for the most part I found him lame. I was playing along on Twitter and observed that most of the women I follow were generally outraged by his jokes and sketches, with the exception of female actors, who all seemed to think they were funny. I guess Hollywood can be a bubble environment. Though “Goldfinger” has never been my favorite Bond song, I thought Bassey knocked it out of the park. I was lukewarm on Adele’s song when I first heard it and her performance did little to change that opinion. I think it has good lyrics, especially once you know the whole story of the film, but it just doesn’t grab me. This is the first time I’ve seen more than one or two of the nominated films in advance (Argo made 4 out of 10), and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the winner of the animated short film in advance.