In the bleak mid-winter, I watched quite a bit of televised entertainment products. Here are a lot of words about those movies and shows.

The Two Popes
This movie made me understand why some people get so frustrated with Hollywood. While it is a charming and hopeful look at the relationship between the current pope and his predecessor, as I was watching it I knew it was playing fast and loose with some of the history between those men.

Which is fine. I don’t think movies need to be completely true. Just about every movie that is “based on real events” has had elements spruced up, merged, or flat out created in order to make for more drama. And every piece of art comes from some point of view, be in anti-this or pro-that.

Because of this I think viewers should always go into historical movies with the understanding that what they are about to view is offered from a certain perspective. I think too many people watch these movies, however, expecting to get a neutral, accurate accounting of events. Then they get upset when they learn what they just watched was not, in fact, how things really went down.
A for entertainment, C for accuracy

Cool Runnings
Speaking of historically inaccurate movies, we randomly picked this one night as a movie the entire family could watch. The girls found it hilarious and interesting. Having lived through the Jamaican bobsled fever of 1988, it sent me to my iPad to see how accurate it was. Turns out, not very!

Ahhh, but it’s a heartwarming tale that anyone, from anywhere, can accomplish anything if they just believe it themselves and each other. And if they fall short, Hollywood producers might spruce it up and turn it into a movie that makes them seem way more successful than they actually were.
B for entertainment, C for accuracy

Curb Your Enthusiasm, seasons one and two
I swore I had watched both of these before, but a good chunk of these episodes rang zero bells for me, so I was glad I started over from the beginning. I was watching just as the new season premiered, so I was able to bookmark a bunch of Best Episode and Best Moments articles, which made for good reading after I knocked out episodes that made those lists. One of the episodes I had not seen was “The Doll.” HOLY SHIT!!!!

The Great Hack
The initial trailer made this seem like a broader look at the privacy concerns of living in the modern, connected world. Instead it focused on a couple players in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. While it is chilling, it did not have the immediate, personal impact I expected

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
I heard about this on, believe it or not, a golf podcast. One of the hosts threw out a very brief reference to this, got big laughs, and I immediately looked it up. I found it on YouTube, and moments later was watching.

It is an utterly ridiculous documentary about the wild world of dudes (mostly) who attempt to get the world high score on classic video games. This show is focused on the two men who challenged for the world record on Donkey Kong. Along with their story we get a view of the community that surrounds their efforts. You may be shocked to learn that most of these people are gigantic dorks!

When I say ridiculous I mean in the best possible way. All the dorks – who are totally, completely, lovably dorky – make it great. One of the main characters has a really compelling story. And his rival is, well, he might be the greatest villain in the history of cinema. Just a truly loathsome individual that you want to see more and more of. (For bonus loathing, read up on him after you watch this. You’ll hate him even more!)

The Good Place
It was not my plan but I saved the entire final season of The Good Place to watch in one extended binge over a long weekend. I started Friday afternoon, watching a couple episodes before dinner. I watched four more that night. I watched a few Saturday afternoon between basketball games. And then I wrapped it up Sunday night.

Time well spent. A really, really good closing season for one of the smartest, warmest TV comedies of our age. It was a fitting and emotional goodbye to Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Janet, and Michael.

What I noticed as I watched was how it fit into my historical comedy preferences. If I had to divide up my favorite shows, I would pick Cheers over Seinfeld. Parks & Rec over The Office. Why? Heart. Cheers and Parks & Rec were shows filled with heart. Seinfeld and The Office made me a laugh so much over their runs, but they had very little heart. Seinfeld was cynical, The Office often cruel. Community and Scrubs are two other shows I loved that put heart before cynicism.

As I watched this final season I also wondered if it would be the final, major role in Ted Danson’s amazing career. He will always be Sam Malone. I never watched Becker but it was popular and lasted for 129 episodes. I never watched the CSIs he was a part of, but that gave him another 102 episodes in prime time. All his appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm over the years. There were his utterly amazing 10 episodes as Hank Larsson in season two of Fargo, one of the greatest performances in recent years. And then Michael the architect on TGP. I’m sure he will remain active as long as he can. But is this the last time we see him taking a character and filling it with his Danson-ness for four or more years?

L and I were scrolling through Disney+ one night, I saw this, and insisted we watch it. She was intrigued when I explained what it was about, but it took us three nights to get through what is a pretty quick movie.

My bad, I had forgotten how strange and kind of bad it is. I guess I was just remembering how pumped I was when it first came out in 1982. I remember playing the game and even reading the novelization of the movie. I dug me some Tron in 1982.

But for a modern kid, the crude graphics are kind of tough to take in. I explained how groundbreaking they were when I was 11. L the 11 year old tried to get into it, but just couldn’t. It didn’t help that the story only barely makes sense and even then you probably need to read a plot summary while you are watching to make any sense of what is going on.

I had forgotten that Cindy Morgan was in it. I think I preferred her work in Caddyshack, but her presence here was appreciated.
1982 me: all the A+’s. 2020 me: C-

Two years ago, right about now, I made a list of movies I had missed in recent years that I needed to get caught up on. Dunkirk was the first entry on that list. I finally got around to watching it a couple weeks ago!

Stunning. That’s the best way to sum up my view of the film. It is (mostly) historically accurate. Wonderful to look at. Cranks down a large, complex story to a handful of characters in a compelling way. Is entertaining, exciting, suspenseful, and up-lifting. And the music. My goodness the music was just insanely good, adding so much tension to every scene.

The Mandalorian
Our first Disney+ original, L and I sat down and watched episode one two weeks ago. When I was ready for episode two, she was more interested in Fortnite or watching YouTube, so I blew threw the rest of the series without her.

Overall I liked it. I’ve made several attempts to get into the expanded Star Wars universe stuff over the years, usually with the novels. They’ve always been aimed more at true sci-fi fans than me. But this, while making those Star Wars fans happy, was open enough to non-sci fi fans like me that I was able to get into it.

I don’t know that there was a great, overarching storyline that tied it all together. I enjoyed how the season ended, but it felt like they started the season without knowing where they were going, or at least how to bridge the middle. Which is fine. I kind of dug the series just being Din Djarin going out on adventures around the galaxy. Honestly, that limited scope may work better for me, the casual fan, than building some new world.

I can’t believe I didn’t know until one of the final episodes that Pedro Pascal played Din. His mechanized voice kept tickling something in my head, but I didn’t look him up until he finally revealed his face in the last (or next to last) episode. Hey, that’s Agent Peña from Narcos!

Good Luck Charlie
L has been watching some of the shows she and her sisters used to watch on The Disney Channel on Disney+. (This is turning into a commercial for the package, isn’t it?) I got sick of hearing Austin and Alley so reminded her that Good Luck Charlie was way better. She listened and has been watching the Duncans to my joy. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: this was the best show of its kind Disney ever did. Solid writing. Great acting. One of the rare shows that made me laugh as much as my girls. Even now, while L is watching an episode and I’m reading next to her and S is charting on the other couch, we will all three bust out laughing multiple times each episode. Good stuff.
A from 2010–2012, still A now.

I knocked this timely series out over the weekend. It is a quick look at how people around the world charged with stopping the flu, ebola, and other viruses are trying their hardest to prevent a repeat of the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak. It is a pretty sobering look how the greatest health care system in the world was struggling to prepare for an inevitable attack. And now that COVID–19 is in the US, it is more worrisome.

I thought it was interesting that the series had no narrator. I don’t know that it made a difference in how I took in the information it offered. But I did like that we only heard from the people whose stories the program was sharing.

I also found it interesting that the chose an extremely attractive woman to represent the hippy, anti-vaxer point of view.