There is no point in trying to ignore the 92nd Academy Awards (Sunday, ABC, CTV, 8 p.m.). It will unfold with the usual mix of grandeur and pomposity over three hours and a bit, and speeches will be made.
Mind you, if you think you can consume some red-carpet coverage and about an hour of the Oscars, there is Homeland (Sunday, Crave, 9 p.m.), back for a terrific final season. More on that in a minute.
There will be no Oscars host, again. Apparently, having a host leads to all manner of hassles and also makes the darn thing even longer. Thus, there are approximately 40 presenters and some of them will attempt a joke. Plus, as usual, the nominees for best original song will perform their works, old-timey ballads, as ever, to allow bathroom breaks.
If you must know: Netflix dominates with 24 total nominations, mostly for The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. However, Joker has the most nominations for an individual film with 11, with 1917, The Irishman and Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood coming in with 10 nominations each. There’s a tie among Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story, and Parasite, with six nominations each.
May I be the 97th person to tell you that I never finished watching The Irishman? Further, I didn’t finish Marriage Story because during those intense scenes, I kept expecting Gene Cousineau (the acting coach played by Henry Winkler on Barry) to jump up and say, “Great work guys! I love it!” Me, I loved Joker and Uncut Gems. So there.
Homeland, on the evidence of early episodes, is a full-throttle, espionage thriller in its eight and final season. And eerily connected to current events.
When we first meet Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) on this occasion, she is recovering from a period of months being tortured and interrogated in Russia. From flashbacks, it’s clear she was drugged and brutalized. Thing is, she can’t remember all of it. So the doctors and her bosses are suspicious. She’s failed a polygraph and some think she was compromised. Along comes National Security Adviser Saul (Mandy Patinkin) to spring her from the hospital in order to help background machinations as the U.S. negotiates an exit from Afghanistan with Afghan and Taliban leaders. Saul is cynical about it all, calling the situation, “the forever war," but he suspects that Pakistan is up to skulduggery.
“You’re coming to Kabul, and it’s 10 times more dangerous than before,” Saul tells Carrie. Soon, Carrie is on a clandestine mission in Kabul and in serious danger. Meanwhile, Carrie’s old surveillance-expert pal, Max (Maury Sterling) has been dropped in the Afghan mountains to repair a listening post. And back at the CIA station in Kabul, word is spreading that Carrie might be a Russian spy.
The pieces come together quickly and with the kind of élan that Homeland has, as shown in its best season. Danes continues to be an astonishingly physical actor, with every muscle in her body commandeered to portray the mental torture her character undergoes. It has long been the case that Carrie is an anti-heroine; her mental disorders making her unreliable, and in this final season, the significant shift is that Carrie is forced to doubt herself. Maybe her core strength was drained out of her by the Russians. Maybe she’s part of an elaborate setup she cannot grasp.
There’s a circularity at work here – in the first season, airing in 2011, Carrie was the CIA officer who came to believe that Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a U.S. Marine who was held by al-Qaeda, and is now heading into politics, was turned by the terrorist group and is now a terrorist threat. Here, it is Carrie who is under suspicion and her mind won’t allow her to determine the facts. It’s fabulous, gripping TV drama, as thrilling as it is dense with political meaning.
Also airing this weekend
The Nature of Things: Kingdom of the Tide (Saturday, CBC NN, 7 p.m and CBC Gem) features marine biologist Sarika Cullis-Suzuki, daughter of David Suzuki, cheerfully exploring the edges of the ocean. Little things you assume are meaningless critters are featured as the monsters they are. Seriously. About that bland little barnacle thing you might see – it’s a feeder that can have a penis up to eight times the length of its body. It is in fact the longest penis-to-body-length ratio in all of nature. Also, Kidding (Sunday, Crave, 10 p.m.) returns for a second season. It’s that deeply sombre, visually electrifying series with Jim Carrey as Jeff Piccirillo, who performs as “Mr. Pickles” on a long-running PBS program for kids. When we last met him, Mr. Pickles had progressed from grieving for his dead son to attempted homicide on his ex-wife’s boyfriend. Its grimness is obdurate.
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