Heaven

I got to thinking the other day, “what will Heaven look like, and what is there to look forward to?” That’s a slice of the Blue Ridge Mountains above – supposedly “almost Heaven.” I could live with that. There must be a golf course or two nearby.

I’m not in a hurry to get to Heaven, and I cannot decide if I want to get there gradually or quickly. When the time comes, and it IS coming, and given the choice, maybe quicker is better, as in just having played 18 holes of golf, shooting my age, followed by a two hour de-brief, then ramming my convertible into a telephone pole. Done.

I am assuming I will end up in Heaven, based on the slimmest of qualifications. But I have several questions. It would be nice if one could end up in Heaven at one’s preferred age. Fortunately I have kept all of my old passports and as I rifled through them, I decided that I would like to be in Heaven as a 45 year old. Good photo. I was fit back then, financially in decent shape, enjoyed my work. And I thought, wouldn’t it be great if my parents were there, close by, at roughly the same age. When my mother was 45, I was 17. Now with me being her contemporary, things would be different. I wouldn’t be hearing, day after day, “what are you going to do with your life?” Too late.

And what about accommodations? I expect I will arrive in Heaven as a single, and I would like a very nice condo, two beds, two baths, den, open plan living area, and facing the golf course, something like the one below.

Okay. So I have this nice place. Who do I want to have over? Certainly there are some old friends that I have lost over the years, and hopefully they have chosen to arrive in Heaven and have taken on an age similar to mine, 40-45, which would make things work. And then I am thinking; Donna won’t arrive here for another decade or two (longevity in her family), what about former girlfriends? Katherine Low and I were an item when we were 20. Back then I called her “Millie.” To my knowledge, she never married, and I understand she is up here somewhere, so why couldn’t we get together? Strictly platonic, of course. I could go on Google.hvn and get Millie’s number.

I haven’t seen Millie since we dated, and I never saved a photo (how would I explain that?), but she looked something like this:

But apart from old “friends” would it not be possible to connect with a few others up here. Maybe do a dinner party. Winston Churchill is here; probably having chose 65 as his “Heaven age.” (He became Prime Minister at age 65). Get his number through Google.hvn; call and ask him to come over casual; say that I will have lots of champagne and brandy, and tell him that he can smoke cigars at the table. You can’t kill anyone with second-hand smoke in Heaven.

You will have noted that I have room for 8 at my dining table, plus I can put a few more at the counter. Arnold Palmer? Absolutely. It would be good to have him one-on-one rather than sharing him with thousands as it was on Earth. I would have a couple of questions for Arnie.

For example, “did he really like Jack?” And, “were you OK leaving your widow all that money?” In advance, I think I know the answers to both.

Who else? Certainly my Dad. What a treat it would be to sit down with your father at age 45. My Dad never opened up about his service in the War. Gone for 5 years and never had a second thought that it wasn’t the right thing to do. Maybe in Heaven we could have that conversation.

I still have some seats to fill. Cary Grant? Absolutely. Cary was 51 when he made the movie, “To Catch a Thief,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock. So Cary might be a bit past the 40-45 guideline, but please! He looked great at any age. Here he is with Grace Kelly.

I have questions for Cary that I would bring up at dinner. For example, who was his favourite co-star? Grace Kelly? Kathryn Hepburn? Joan Fontaine? Eva Marie Saint? No reason to hold back now, as the press is nowhere in sight. If I were Cary, I would vote for Grace. She was a Princess after all.

I still have several seats to fill. Not to dwell on actors, but I have to include Ingrid Bergman. “Casablanca” is my favourite movie of all time, and I know that Ingrid is up here somewhere. A simple phone call (I would tell her that Cary is coming, of course) and could she join us for dinner? Yes. Lots of questions for her as well. Favourite co-star? Was Bogie really that short? Would she be embarrassed if I told her that she was the most stunning actress ever on screen (in “Casablanca”)?

Anyway, I will fill out the dinner table in a few moments, but there are some logistical things to get out of the way. For example, there is transportation. How do you get Winston Churchill to your place for dinner? In Heaven, you simply wish for it (but you need to send a formal invitation, of course) and he would arrive at the appointed time. Should he bring Clemmie? You bet.

Food and drink? In Heaven the fridge is always full of the things you need. Just like on Earth. It just happens. No need to go to the market. Wines and spirits? I would not push the Heaven thing too much and insist on the finest of wines and whisky. I would be OK with Aussie wines, and a nice California cab, and Glenmorangie – even though Churchill might not be too pleased.

So, back to dinner. Leonardo da Vinci? Good God yes. Steve Jobs? For sure. I am beginning to wonder what I am doing at the same table. I just want to sit there and listen to the conversations. If the discussions get heavy I can chat with my Dad, as he always had a pretty straightforward view of life. That’s him above, circa 1940. In today’s vernacular, he would have been a dude (and certainly a Skuxx).

What about media in Heaven? One of the saving graces. No need for Facebook or Twitter. The people you need to connect with can be reached with a simple phone call. Cary, can you come for dinner? “What day, what time?” “Shall I bring Grace?” “Prince Rainier?” “No, just Grace will be fine.”

The news? No more newspapers. TV? Sure. But just classic flicks. And Netflix and Super Bowl reruns featuring the Patriots. No more Fox news. Sean Hannity and Donald Trump will be headed to the southern alternative when the time comes anyway. That is a fact.

My Heaven seems to be a nice landing place and I start to wonder; what about those who were less advantaged on Earth? What is their notion of Heaven? As on Earth, and as it continues unfairly, their expectations may fall far short of my own. “As on Earth, as it is in Heaven.” Sadly, for many.

But, I do have to remind myself, this is about me and what I have to look forward to. The dinner table? Add John Wolfe. Our next-door neighbour in Connecticut. John passed on in 2009 at age 90. We met when John was 68 and I was but 40. Among his many words of wisdom? “Son, only serve Bombay Gin, Sapphire, with a thimble full of vermouth and a spray of single malt Scotch, and you will have the makings of the perfect martini.”

Heaven …

Viewing

Here are some insights into you might want (or not want) to see on the big screen or your flat screen. I have added ratings to each, based on Rotten Tomatoes, IDMb (Internet Movie Database) and my own assessment, which is simply a likability score.

“The Favourite”

Not your mother’s movie. But a movie nonetheless loved by critics. The New York Times critic called it a “bracingly cynical comedy of royal manners.” To me it is a black comedy, and bizarre at times, often difficult to watch. There are some truly comedic moments. At a formal ball, Rachel Weisz’s character, Sarah, and her partner, break into a dance worthy of a 2019 rave party. Or the Duke of Marlborough, Sarah’s husband, calmly reading what appears to be a newspaper (did they actually have newspapers in 1711?) as soldiers ride into the grounds of his estate, intent on making his arrest.

For those of you who are fans of “The Crown,” you will know Olivia Colman as the actress replacing Claire Foy as the Queen. Olivia on the right. Claire on the left. Olivia has starred as well in “Broadchurch” (Netflix) and “The Night Manager” (AMC).

Olivia, along with Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, form a female triangle of tension, intrigue and eroticism in “The Favourite,” with Olivia as Queen Anne. Rachel’s character, Sarah Churchill, has the ear of Queen Anne to the extent that nothing happens, politically or personally, without the influence of Sarah. But that all changes when Emma Stone’s character, Abigail, arrives at the royal palace. Abigail quickly rises from kitchen help to Sarah’s maid, and on to be the confidant of the Queen. The tension rises between Sarah and Abigail, as the latter transforms from a seeming innocent to a cold, manipulative power seeker. Rachel as Sarah below. (Rachel in real life is married to Daniel Craig of James Bond fame).

Emma Stone, as we know, won an Oscar for “La La Land.” Not sure what it is about her, but she is always good – as in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Birdman.”

This is a movie that sticks in the mind. But difficult to sit through. There is much tension and uncertainty. Would I see it again? No. Am I happy to have seen it? Yes. Would I recommend you see it? Maybe not. The performances are exceptional. The movie will be a contender for a Best Picture Oscar, and each of the main actors – Colman, Weisz, Stone – stand a good chance to be nominated for Oscars for their achievements.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%/60% (Critics/Audience)
IDMb Rating: 8.1 (out of 10)
My Rating: 8 (out of 10)

“The Mule”

Clint Eastwood is 88 years old and still directing movies. In “The Mule” he is featured in the starring role. I have been an Eastwood fan since “Rawhide” and his move into the so-called spaghetti westerns, the “Dirty Harry” series and more. Clint elevated squinting and mumbling to an art form. His best work came in later years – “Unforgiven,” Million Dollar Baby” – to name just two. He has proved himself a producing and directing force, along with some solid acting that almost made you forget you were watching Clint Eastwood. But maybe he should just stick to directing, based on “The Mule.”

A few of us agreed that “The Mule” could have been so much more. Bradley Cooper and Michael Pena were pretty much wasted in their roles as FBI agents. Plus a lot more drama could have been inserted into scenes that took the “Mule” (Eastwood) on his drug-laden cross country trips from New Mexico to Illinois. “The Mule” will make a lot of money. But not really worth a trip to the cinema.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 65%/67% (Critics/Audience)
IDMb Rating: 7.2 (out of 10)
My Rating: 5 (out of 10)

“Roma” (Netflix)

You may not recognize the name Alfonzo Cuaron, and I guarantee you will not know the name Yalitza Aparicio. Mr. Cuaron directed “Roma.” He also directed “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” “Children of God,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” and “Gravity.” He has been nominated for 6 Academy Awards, and has won two – for Best Director and for Editing for “Gravity.” And has added 6 British Film Academy Awards.

Set in the early 1970s in Mexico City, “Roma” presents a year in the life of a middle class family living in a gated house, with a mother, grandmother, four young children, and two servants, including the maid played by Yalitza Aparicio. As Cleo, she is an indigenous Mexican, who works hard, without complaining, and who is impregnated by Fermin, a young revolutionary. Cleo reveals to her pregnancy to Fermin in a movie theatre, whereupon he excuses himself to go to the bathroom, never to return. She finally tracks him down and he erupts in violent denial, leaving Cleo to solve her own problems. What Cleo is good at solving are her employer’s problems. Cleo is the glue that holds the family together – the husband has left them abruptly and without resources – and the children are like her own.

This is movie that draws you in – albeit gradually. Ms. Aparicio is remarkable as Cleo: there are few characters in cinema who portray such feeling or strength without hyperbole. One of the most touching scenes is Cleo giving birth to a still-born daughter. She conveys the kind of feeling that the viewer cannot be anything but deeply affected. And on a beach vacation, despite not being able to swim, and in heavy currents, she rescues two of her young charges (Yalitza as Cleo with the children in the following image).

See “Roma.” Available on Netflix.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%/83% (Critics/Audience)
IDMb Rating: 8.2 (out of 10)
My Rating: 8 (out of 10)

“Call My Agent”

Another offering from Netflix. Season 3 has just arrived. “Call My Agent” (in French, “Dix pour cent”) is a clever satire about a Paris-based talent agency, ASK, whose agents are totally immersed in personal issues while trying to manage the careers of their clients, all of whom are prominent French actors and entertainers. With each episode comes a different client with a challenge: for example, preparing Juliette Binoche for a speech at the Cannes Film Festival; or trying to repair a rift (a rift, in fact caused by one of ASK’s agents) between Isabelle Adjani and a movie director. The agents have a penchant for wounds that are self- inflicted, be they personal or professional wounds. If you don’t mind subtitles, this is fun to watch.

Our agents above. The Globe and Mail reviewer called this “an absolute gem.”

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: N/A
IDMb Rating: 8.1 (out of 10)
My Rating: 9 (out of 10)

“The Sisters Brothers”

You put John C. Reilly in a movie and I will probably watch it. Well, maybe not. But not because of Mr. Reilly. He is always worth watching, as in “Boogie Nights,” “Chicago,” “The Hours,” “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” and now “The Sisters Brothers.” This is a brutal western – with some great comedic moments – based on the novel by Patrick deWitt. The movie pairs Mr. Reilly with Joachin Phoenix as Eli and Charlie Sisters, hired gunmen out to track down and kill Hermann Warm, who, allegedly, has stolen from the brother’s employer, the Commodore.
Perhaps more a movie for guys. The critics liked it, I liked it, but few others seemed to as it failed to break even at the box office. That has not stopped Mr. Reilly from moving on to other projects. “Holmes and Watson” (with Will Ferrell as Holmes and Mr. Reilly as Watson) is currently in theatres, and apparently is awful. Not on my list of flicks to see. Mr. Reilly and Mr. Ferrell team up quite often, and often with mixed results. Then there is “Stan and Ollie,” with Mr. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel. A must see for me.

Ratings for “The Sisters Brothers?”

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%/66% (Critics/Audience)
IDMb Rating: 7.1 (out of 10)
My Rating: 7 (out of 10)

“A Star is Born”

A movie that has been done four times, starting in 1937, with Fredric March and Janey Gaynor; in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason; and in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. The 1937 and 1954 versions are worth seeing, as is the 2018 film. Think of the current “A Star is Born” as “Crazy Heart with Gaga.” As good as Bradley Cooper is as director and lead, Lady Gaga stripped down, makes the movie. And I only mean “stripped down” in the sense that she is not wearing meat or some such, for a change, but she is without make-up with only her talent to be seen. This is a movie I will see again. The story still works, and is even more timely considering the addiction crisis that is upon us. The ending is a sad reminder that often there is only one solution to addiction.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%/81% (Critics/Audience)
IDMb Rating: 8.1 (out of 10)
My Rating: 9 (out of 10)

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

I am a big Queen fan, mainly because of Freddie Mercury. Hard to believe that Freddie (born Farrokh Bulsara) has been gone so long (he passed on in 1991 at age 45) but it is tribute to Freddie and his bandmates that their music still lives on. I enjoyed “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the music, and for the performance of Rami Malek as Freddie. The movie itself is pretty predictable, but Mr. Malik really holds it together. He was able to capture the excitement of the Live Aid concert of 1985, where Freddie had the Wembley audience spellbound (go to YouTube to see Freddie at Live Aid). The movie was well received by audiences, but not so much by critics.

Freddie on the left, Rami on the right.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 62%/90% (Critics/Audience)
IDMb Rating: 8.2 (out of 10)
My Rating: 6 (out of 10)

“Can You Ever Forgive Me”

This is a very entertaining movie, with Mellissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant starring. Ms. McCarthy plays Lee Israel, a down-on-her-luck author who, out of desperation, forges letters, supposedly written by famous cultural figures, and sells them to art and book dealers. A nice, profitable business, and as the cops close in on her, she turns to Mr. Grant to act on her behalf. She forges, he sells. This is Ms. McCarthy as have never seen her; a slovenly, curmudgeonly character, but one who is gradually embraced by the viewer.
Mr. Grant is her antithesis; well-groomed, out-going and charming. Despite their differences, they make an unforgettable screen couple. Worth seeing.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 98%/83% (Critics/Audience)
IDMb Rating: 7.6
My Rating: 8 (out of 10)

More to come. Apart from “Stan and Ollie,” I plan to see “They Shall Not Grow Old,” a documentary created by Peter Jackson about the Great War (Peter Jackson is responsible for the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” trilogies); “Vice,” starring Christian Bale: “Destroyer,” with Nicole Kidman; and “The Punisher,” its second season coming soon to Netflix.
I will report back …