“The Muppet Show” brings fun for all after an absence of almost 50 years and two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand does it again in “Nomadland.”
It’s Viewing the Videos.
The Muppet Show (Disney+)
“The Muppet Show,” screening on Disney+, is almost 50 years old, but it is still joyous, funny, and highly entertaining.
From 1976 to 1981, some of the biggest stars in entertainment joined the Muppets in a weekly half hour show that took a “behind the scenes” look at the production of a variety show. Guests included: Paul Simon, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Hamill, Bob Hope, Steve Martin, Julie Andrews, Peter Sellers, Rudolph Nureyev and more.
This show is colorful and fast moving (each episode is about 25 minutes) and the humor is sometimes silly, but not childish.
“Our next guest needs no introduction,” says one of the Muppets.
“He doesn’t need an introduction. He needs an act” is the response.
Everybody’s here in the days before the Muppets went to Sesame Street: Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Statler and Waldorf, the Swedish Chef and more.
Disney+ is $6.99 a month and it’s worth it just to view “The Muppet Show.”
Five Palm Trees.
Even before the pandemic, the American economy was undergoing profound changes. After the recession of 2008, an entire subculture developed: nomads, who lived in their vans or RVs and traveled the country for seasonal work, whether it was helping with shipping at Amazon during the holidays or working in national parks that were summer destinations for tourists.
Fern (Frances McDormand) is one of those people. Her husband died and the factory that supported her small town closed and all the jobs went away. She hits the road working in jobs that change with the seasons. Based on the 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving American in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder, the movie also features some real-life nomads as fictionalized versions of themselves.
Although all the people are struggling, it is a remarkably enveloping environment where people are glad to help each other out.
McDormand has two Oscars ("Fargo"/"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) and her portrayal of Fern is intense without being showy. As a woman in her 60s, Fern really expected to have a gentle retirement, but circumstances force her to scramble for a living. She deals with these challenges with openness and strength. Her whole life, including relationships with her children, was upended and she deals with it.
Fern encounters Dave (David Strathairn) in her travels. In a traditional movie, their relationship would develop into something romantic. That’s not what happens here, but their relationship is an important aspect of the story.
“Nomadland” is the story of how America’s economy and society change in the early 2000s and how it affected one person. McDormand deserves another Oscar nomination for this role.
Four Palm Trees.
White Tiger (Netflix)
The story of a boy who overcomes crushing poverty to become a successful and wealthy entrepreneur would seem to be an American story. Instead, “The White Tiger” is set in contemporary India and the movie looks at the complicated socio-economic classes in the country.
It’s a deeply personal story set against the sprawling, chaotic environment of India, based on the debut novel by Aravind Adiga, which became a New York Times best seller in 2008.
Balram Halwai, played by Adarsh Gourav, born into poverty, is told he is a “white tiger,” someone who comes along once in a generation. Unfortunately, because his father cannot pay off the village landlord, he is forced to work for his grandmother. He struggles until he talks his way into the job as a driver for a wealthy family, even though he cannot drive.
He works for a couple (played by Rajkummar Rao (Asok) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) who like him, but still treat him like a servant. He eventually commits murder, steals some money and sets off to Bangalore, where he achieves financial success, but is forced to confront the moral consequences of his actions.
This is excellent work by all concerned. The great novel is smoothly adapted to the screen, and the film leaves the viewer with much to think about when it comes to class systems, freedom of choice for individuals and how far will a person go for financial success.
Four Palm Trees.
FROM THE VAULT
Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) won her first Oscar as a pregnant Minnesota police chief investigating homicides and a kidnaping in this dark but very humorous story from Joel and Ethan Coen.
HOW WE RATE THE FILMS
Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.
New Releases are rated as follows:
Five Palm Trees: Must see
Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen
Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen
Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying
One Palm Tree: Skip it. Save your money and your time.