Dog Trainer is Busted

“She’s training you,” said the vet. Imagine that in a speech bubble. Now add a thought bubble above a dog’s head: “Busted!”.

That happened twice during a recent visit I paid with Mochi to Dr. Craig Hopkins at Ferguson Animal Hospital in Providence. Once was when I told Craig that Mochi often insisted on going out in the middle of the night, and usually did some business while we were out. “She’s training you,” he said, adding that a healthy four-year old dog could hold it until morning.

I raised the question of her weight. She’s 57 pounds, up from her previous visit, and up from the 49-50 pounds she stayed at for a while. We agreed that this may be related to her habit of banging her food bowl on the floor when it’s empty, and our habit of putting food in it when she does so. So yes, she’s trained us to do that. On a related note, she would not get on the vet’s scale until bribed with a treat.

So Mochi is a dog trainer: a dog who trains. She’s also a service dog: a dog who likes to be served food. She’s a Portuguese Water Dog, curly rather than flat of hair.

We discussed this at the following day at the family breakfast table, as Mochi was hand-fed pieces of waffle with whipped cream.

Mochi was, as usual, very good at the vet’s. She is used to Ferguson, having been a patient there since before she was born. They were running a little late, but she was well-behaved, helped by three visits from staff: one to tell me that the wait was for a free treatment room, and the other two to tell her how good and cute she was.

We’ll try to make her more good. We don’t think she could be more cute. What do you think?

Cabinet of Curiosities, Second Half

So I found the first four episodes of Guillermo del Toro’s horror anthology uneven, but interesting enough to finish the series. So here we go on to episodes five to eight.

Episodes five and six have much in common: each is based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, and features paintings. I had trouble with episode five, “Pickman’s Model”. It might as well have been made for laughs: a parody of Lovecraft; and Pickman’s strange accent. I did appreciate Pickman’s art, and its effect on a fellow artist.

Episode six, “Dreams in the Witch House”, worked a little better, but was still one of the weaker episodes in the anthology. The witch house itself was the strongest aspect, and one of the best settings in an anthology full of creepy settings. Perhaps Lovecraft doesn’t work for me (even though I live near Providence, his home) or perhaps he wasn’t well served by the teleplays.

In episode seven, “The Viewing”, a wealthy recluse summons four famous people to view… something; I won’t spoil what it is. Again, the setting is impressive, although even I began to weary of (my favorite color) orange. So far, the second half of the anthology wasn’t as much to my taste as the first.

The eighth and last episode, “The Murmuring”, is about married ornithologists who have lost their daughter. They go to study dunlins on a remote island, where a house is prepared for them to stay in. Yes, the house turns out to be haunted.

This episode differs from the other episodes of the anthology in several ways. It has fewer horror tropes than most. It was, for me, better than most, perhaps the best since the first. It was one of two for which the Guillermo wrote the story (but not the teleplay); the other was the first.

As for the anthology as a whole, the direction, acting, and cinematography were excellent, and consistently so, despite the cast and crew varying between episodes. The writing was, for the most part, not as good. If there is a second season, I’d like more input from Guillermo.

What did you think of Cabinet of Curiosities? Would you watch a second season?

Cabinet of Curiosities, Halfway Through

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is a horror anthology released on Netflix as Halloween 2022 approaches. There are eight episodes. I’ve watched the first four, and intend to watch and review the second half of the season.

I have mostly positive, albeit very mixed feelings, about the show so far. I like the way that Guillermo introduces each episode, drawing from a cabinet an object and a statuette of the director. Each episode has a different director. Each director so far has done an excellent job, with creepiness appropriate to the episode.

The acting is similarly excellent, and distinct to each episode: there are no shared characters or actors. There are recurring themes: for example, each of the first two episodes shows us that it’s a bad idea to be in debt to bad people. But I don’t think that Guillermo is going for anything more unified than well-directed horror introduced by his good self.

The first episode, “Lot 36”, is my favorite so far. Tim Blake Nelson stars as a veteran who certainly doesn’t arouse liking, but does arouse some sympathy. Tim is superb, as is the whole cast. I particularly liked Martha Burns as Agatha, through whom he tries to sell some strange old things in order to pay his debt. Of course, some of the things are really strange…

The second episode, “Graveyard Rats”, is my least favorite of the first four episodes. It features David Hewlett as a grave-robber, some wicked Massachusetts accents, and a ton of rats. It’s not bad, but it is predictable, and outstays its welcome, even though it is the shortest of these episodes at 39 minutes. Maybe you should just watch the trailer, since this episode is as dark as well-directed as the series itself.

The next episode, “The Autopsy”, consists to a large extent of F. Murray Abraham slicing in to and recording his comments on bodies. So yes, it’s even more watchable than most of the Cabinet. But in this episode, as in the anthology so far, the writing doesn’t match up to the performances and direction.

The fourth episode, “The Outside” is the hardest for me to review. I can best describe it as three thirds, each of about 20 minutes, each better than the one before. In the first third, we are invited to find Kate Micucci unattractive. I found that puzzling, even though she has an unbecoming long hairstyle. In the second third, she goes crazy for a beauty product. The last third is crazy in a very good way. I expect that this will be, for many people, the best episode so far.

You can see more details of, and more perspectives on, Cabinet of Curiosities at Letterboxd, where I have a list of the episodes. If you’ve watched, which is your favorite of the first four?

Mistakes Were Made, in UK as well as in USA

Mistakes were made: it’s a classic construct, dating back to at least 1876, used by Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and many others.

Liz Truss, Prime Minister of the UK, is making an impressive effort to overtake her American rivals for the all-time records. Soon after she became PM, her Chancellor of the Exchequer (that’s English for “money dude”) came out with a mini-budget including tax cuts at the top end. She sacked him, despite having advocated the very measures he announced.

“There were mistakes,” said her new money dude. Liz herself has used the classic combination of the m-word and the passive voice.

Post has been written. That’s it from me. What is thought by you?

Sopranos: Seasons 3-5

The problem with writing about The Sopranos after all these years is that so much has been said (in writing, on YouTube, etc.). So I’m following in a lot of footsteps when I say that the snowy “Pine Barrens” (season 3, episode 11) is a great hour of television. I think I’m on fresher ground when I say that my favorite moments are Paulie complaining that he lost a shoe in the snow, apparently more horrified about fashion than about frostbite.

Joining “Pine Barrens” among my very favorite episodes, and heading my list of underrated episodes, is the season 3 opener: “Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood”. The FBI plant a listening device in Tony’s basement. This takes some time, what with having to keep track of where each family member is while the agents are trying to make the plant. The agents refer to the young Sopranos as “Princess Bing” and “Baby Bing”.

Neither of these season 3 favorites is does much to advance the big story of the show. Each is sharply written and well acted, and tells us a lot about the world and the people in it.

They are joined among my firm favorites by “Whitecaps”, the last episode of season 4. Tony tries to make Carmela happy by buying a house on the shore, rather than by, for example, being faithful.

I binged season 4, and that worked very well. In this it contrasts with season 2, which I should not have binged. My problem with season 2 was that so many of the characters were so annoying. Some became less annoying, and some died; Tony’s mother had the decency to do both.

Season 5 is, on my first viewing, the “waste of the greats Steve Buscemi” season. His character, Tony Blundetto, gets out of prison determined to go straight. That’s an interesting premise, but it’s badly executed. At the end of the season, Blundetto is executed.

Am I being too harsh on season 5?

Oscars 2022

I haven’t seen enough movies from 2021 to do a “should win” post, and I haven’t paid enough attention to Oscars past to do a “will win post”. But two of my favorite YouTubers have each posted an Oscar-focused video recently, and the contrast between the two is interesting.

Marianna at Impression Blend posted her reactions to the announcement of nominations for the 2022 awards. Marianna is very engaged with the announcement, starting with the very first nomination: Jessie Buckley for best supporting actress, which she and I both applauded. She has mixed, but mostly positive, reactions for a while. Then we get to best director…

In contrast, Maggie at Deep Focus Lens posted about why the Oscars don’t matter. Don’t let that put you off: Maggie starts with reasons why the Oscars do matter. She goes on to give reasons why the Oscars aren’t an indicator of quality.

I’m not pitting these two excellent MovieTubers against each other. Each is my favorite type of YouTuber: an ELK, one who is Enthusiastic, Likeable, and Knowledgeable. I believe that they know and respect one another.

I am more of a Maggie than a Marianna. My favorite piece of evidence in the case against taking the Oscars seriously is the Best Picture category in the 49th awards. One 0f the worst movies I’ve ever seen won, pitted against at least two of the best movies I’ve ever seen. And… but let me skip over Jake G in Nightcrawler, and return to the present.

As for this year, I understand Marianna’s outrage that Denis Villeneuve was not nominated for directing Dune. But I’m less surprised then she was.

What are your views on the Oscars, and on the 2022 nominations?

Three Things I Liked About Dallas

I like exploring places new to me. The thing I liked most about my recent trip to Dallas was that, for the first time in over two years, I was able to travel to and explore a new place.

The second, and most Dallas-specific thing, was the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Its website is jfk.org. It is in the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy. The museum gives great insight into the early 1960s, Kennedy, the assassination, and the many theories about the assassination.

I also enjoyed visits to the Dallas Museum of Art and to other art museums. But if you have to visit just one of the city’s many museums, I recommend heading to Dealey Plaza.

The third thing was the food, and in particular, barbeque. Maybe bbq should have been the first thing! They cook bbq slow and serve it fast (I lunched early, avoiding peak times). The beef at the famous Pecan Lodge was particularly tasty, although I’ll never be able to resist pulled pork.

I was also impressed by Tex-Mex, Chinese, and Indian food in the Dallas area.

I really enjoyed my few days in Dallas. But what did I miss?

Sopranos Second Season

Superb Sopranos Second Season: Bad For Binging. That was almost the title of this post, but it’s better as the TLDR.

The show is superb, as many have said before. It’s bad for binging because it’s annoying in excessive doses. By that I of course mean that it annoyed me.

In a sense, it’s meant to be annoying. Most of the main characters are preening man-children. It’s in some ways a compliment to the show and to the acting that most of the characters are annoying. It’s an even bigger compliment to James Gandolfini that I still enjoyed his performance, even though he’s the main man-child.

The biggest disappointment of the season concerns Christopher, who is shot, and whose life is in danger. The disappointment is that the whining little narcissist survives. This is not a criticism of Michael Imperioli, who is all too convincing as Chris.

There are a couple of characters who are a lot more annoying than they need to be. One is Silvio: I’m not sure that Steven Van Zandt is an actor. The other is Dr Melfi. I’m sure that Lorraine Bracco can act. What I’m not sure about is that robotic bleat of a voice, which I find almost unbearable.

Again, the show is great. The way it evokes the world and the life, the dialog, most of the performances…

I will watch seasons 3-6. I just won’t binge them.

Cage in a Pig: Rhyming Review

To summarize this post about the 2021 movie, Pig, in two four-letter words: poem; Cage.

He lives in the woods, finding truffles.
Steal his pig? Oh, his feathers you’ll ruffle.
No, it’s not like John Wick;
No Keanu, it’s Nic!
Cage is great, full of love ‘midst kerfuffle.

Yes, Nicolas Cage is indeed great in Pig. I believe that actors should be judged on their best work, rather than their worst. Pig and Leaving Las Vegas, almost thirty years apart, are sufficient to declare him a great actor. If you consider some of the other movies he’s been in terrible, I don’t care, and I hope that Nic doesn’t either.

What do you think? About Pig? About Nic?

The Sopranos: More on Season One

I previously discussed three aspects of The Sopranos, based on my decades-late watching of the first season. I want to discuss two more aspects: one that I know will change through the seasons, the other that I am sure will not change.

Let’s start with the constant: food. In this world, if you arrive somewhere, you bring food, if someone visits you, you offer food, if you’re meeting, there will be eating… And what better place to whack someone than a restaurant, as when Junior decides that the best place to kill “Little Pussy” is the restaurant run by Artie, one of Tony’s oldest friends.

What will change is technology, particularly communication technology. In the first season, a telephone is something with a cable connecting it to a wall, or to a phone box. In the first episode of the second season, we see a relatively slim cellphone.

I’ll be back soon with comments on the second season. Is it as good as the first?