By Anne Brodie
Fargo is back, thank goodness. The series in its epic, deep firestorm of humanity’s struggle to survive, created by Noah Hawley and now in its fifth season remains one of the finest series ever to appear on TV, up there with Twin Peaks. Set in small communities whether in the deepest snowiest reaches of Saint Cloud or Scandia Minnesota, its psychological size and power are as big as the universal, even Biblical, as characters battle generational demons with every series. From Billy Bob Thornton to Martin Freeman, Jean Smart, Ewan McGregor, Chris Rock, and Jessie Buckley, its unforgettable characters, so forcefully written by Hawley, continue with Juno Temple and Jennifer Jason Leigh battling it out in S5. What are they fighting for? Dominance? inheritance, reputation? The lifeforce itself, set here in notes echoing grand opera. Temple is Dot, a housewife and mother who has kept her prior, abusive marriage to John Hamm’s corrupt local sheriff secret from Wayne (David Rysdahl) her current husband. She is experiencing a “normal”, happy life at last except she can’t be found out. Lorraine Leigh), her vitriolic, powerful credit millionaire mother-in-law, wants Dot out of the picture and has the thugs to make it happen. Leigh’s incisive, cruelly ruthless portrayal is the stuff of nightmares, one of the best/worst characters on TV. The Trump era and its fallout appear in Hamm, as he reads Bible verses and casually shoots folks dead; he wants his ex-wife back by any means possible. Dot is on the run, but she’s a Tiger and the tiger is dangerous when cornered. Beelzebub, an event in Wales in 1552, and a psychiatric ward all figure. And as ever, Hawley’s musical soundtrack and orchestral, doom score sends shivers down the spine. Nov. 21 on FX, or stream anytime on Citytv+.
The sixth and final season of The Crown – read carefully – Part 1, with four episodes premieres Nov. 16, and Part 2, with six episodes Dec. 14 – on Netflix. And it’s a scorcher. The Royal Family is beginning to understand Diana’s global influence as a star, which is overshadowing their stature, as she brings openness, for good or bad, to the fore. The now-divorced, non-Royal Diana begins philanthropic work, most notably with her campaign to ban and clear landmines. She travelled to Bosnia’s mined war fields and met with blast survivors. And she’s in a romance with Dodi Fayed, the son of ruthless businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed. Meanwhile, Charles is desperate to have the Queen publically legitimise Camilla, his longtime mistress, and allow them to marry. Elizabeth Debicki’s phenomenal, note-perfect portrayal of the “most beautiful women in the world” is achingly raw, despite its elegance, and brings all new dimensions of the person we knew through the lens of screaming media and That Doomsday Interview. Debicki gives Diana wisdom, evenness, and a strong desire to love and be loved. It wasn’t easy in that family or under that microscope. What happens in private between Dodi and Diana on the night of the tragedy in Paris can’t be relied upon as fact, of course, but she is lifted up as a person with common sense. The series reimagines the Queen’s Golden Jubilee from inside Buck House, Balmoral and Sandringham, her reflections on the future of the monarchy, the marriage of Charles and Camilla, and Prince William’s well-received marriage to commoner Kate Middleton. There’s a keen sense of sadness watching, knowing the tragedies and triumphs that lay ahead for the family and we re-experience the global gut punch of Diana’s death.
When the Rolling Stones’ singles got to Canada, the band was described by radio deejays as ugly like cavemen, probably due to the long hair and unconventional clothing – maybe particularly, the skin-tight pants, raw sensuality, and potential danger to one’s daughters. The original band was begun in 1962 by Brian Jones who is little known today; his story is one of the first of the British Invasion pop stars felled by drink and drugs, but what a life and talent! The ’60s were explosive – the elite class that ruled the island forever was feeling an undertow – the emerging spirit of rebellion in the new post-war generation. The kids weren’t having middle-class conservative mandates and expressed themselves in new music, art, dress, and ideals. Brian Jones was born into the bourgeoisie but rebelled hard. He was a natural musician, guitar, piano, and clarinet, whatever instrument he touched he could play – his greatest contribution to the early Stones – using Middle Eastern, African, and Asian instruments in new ways, creating electrifying soundscapes for the band’s blues-based repertoire. Band leader Jones and Mick Jagger fell out over the direction the Stones music would take, launching a long rivalry for the band’s leadership role. Both were huge stars with tonnes of fan mail and screaming mobs of teenage girls. Documentarian Nick Broomfield’s heartwrenching doc The Stones and Brian Jones focuses on Jones’ heartbreaking story from boy to beautiful, wild child-man, darkness and paranoia, fed by drug use, personal and professional resentments, five children by five different women, and the unhappy relationship with his parents that seemed to bend his life out of shape. This is raw stuff, and again profoundly sad. The world lost a remarkable talent, a seeker and provocateur who lived on the edge and in fear. Broomfield’s respect for Jones is clear as he outlines Jones’ unique visionary gifts, that unquenchable passion, and the way he lived out his colourful, sad, and very short life. The doc’s an experience in itself. Theatres.
Roger Ross Williams’ unblinking hybrid documentary/ feature Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas seeks to establish the “reasons” for racism in North America and the ways in which black people were “othered” with extreme prejudice long before they were captured and enslaved in the New World. Obscure texts explore the Land of Nod where beasts, including black human beings, dwelt. This beautifully produced, breathtaking study of the origins of racism, based on Ibram X. Kendi’s 2016 book, comes as the white supremacy movement rears its ugly head in the divided USA. Kendi states that we are not living in a post-racial society. Williams shows disgusting imagery past and present that upholds the old beliefs. Slavery as a for-profit industry started first in Eastern Europe, when Slavs, “slaves”, fell under violent oppression. The first Black slaves are mentioned in 1444 when Portugal stole Africans for labour. Enslavement was “justified” in the manufactured belief that Blacks were inferior, beastly, criminal, and degraded. And that set the story that moved to the New World and argues Kendi, remains. The film is sumptuously illustrated and animated featuring interviews with academics, writers, and activists including Angela Davis, a deep and troubling take on our same old, same old times. Netflix.
Toronto will never forget when the Swede arrived in town and led the Maple Leafs to dominate the sport of hockey. Börje – The Journey of a Legend on Viaplay streaming Nov. 19th takes us back to the Hogtown 70s with an extraordinary treasure trove of archival footage of the city, Maple Leaf Gardens, the game, and the players. It’s about the incredible rise of a Swedish player from ordinary roots who became the first Swede inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and an NHL legend. 6’1″ Börje Salming was an unlikely superstar. He spoke no English but learned in a hurry under Leafs owner Harold Ballard’s iron fist, and didn’t fit in. His skills won him respect soon enough. As fascinating as Salming’s rags-to-riches journey is, Ballard’s story is, well, startling. He had to be convinced to keep Salming. Ballard was all about encouraging violence on the ice to draw crowds to the arena. New footage shot inside the Gardens looks just the way it did before the place was shuttered, not sure how that was done but what a treat for concertgoers and sports fans back in the day. I’m not a hockey person but the six-parter, set here in town about a singular set of characters and circumstances is fun. Must mention that there was indeed a “Wives Room” because that was the way things were then. Great footage of famous old restaurants, now gone, the Grand Dame of Front St., the Royal York Hotel and Union Station.
Michelle Danner’s fact-based drama Miranda’s Victim reexamines the most famous rape case in American jurisprudence, the 1963 kidnapping and attack on eighteen-year-old Patricia Weir (Abigail Breslin). Weir was devastated but summoned the courage to go to the police. There were a couple of clues that led police to the perp, Ernesto Miranda (Sebastian Quinn) and she was able to pick him out of a lineup. Weir was naturally timid, she couldn’t say the word penis, and she didn’t want to upset the applecart or embarrass her shamed mother (Mireille Enos). Her waffling dragged the proceedings out for years. The police hadn’t asked Miranda if he wanted a lawyer present for his first interview and later when he signed a confession, so none of it was admissible. The ACLU got wind of the story and its attack dog lawyer (Ryan Phillipe) went to bat to free Miranda in a bitter ideological war with Weir’s lawyer (Luke Wilson) who saw what the attacks had done to her. Miranda was later found guilty on charges of kidnapping and rape, and as it turns out, he had many other victims, but the decision was reversed. The case went to the US Supreme Court which created Miranda Rights, to protect a suspect from self-incrimination and the right to an attorney before being questioned. And then the state of Arizona stepped up and sent him to the slammer. Also stars Andy Garcia, with special appearances by Donald Sutherland and Kyle McLachlan. On TVOD.