The Watchlist: March 2016

I feel like I’ve watched a fair bit this month, so I won’t go into too much detail on everything…

Films

Populaire

This is a lovely, almost stereotypically, French film and a perfect Sunday afternoon watch. It doesn’t ask for much from you and you know where it’s going from the beginning and it does indeed go there. But a film about a clumsy girl who finds her calling by being a speed-typist? What’s not to love.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

This is based on the novel of the same name with the film rights snapped up *before* the book was even released on sale. Based around 9/11 and the fallout and questions it creates for one young Pakistani living the American high life; it flopped at the pictures but it’s not overly terrible. Undoubtedly it thinks of itself as a bit worthy and I didn’t come away from it feeling particuarly validated by its existence, spending most of the time staring at Riz Ahmed’s perfect nose.

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Anomalisa

I didn’t know what to expect from this film but somehow I’d built it up in my mind to be some great watch. I’m not entirely sure it delivers on that point, but it’s certainly different enough to warrant a viewing . The use of stop motion animation takes a couple of minutes to get to used to but it’s nice to see this method used well to create an adult animated film. It also means I get to tick ‘stop motion sex scene’ off my to-watch list. The use of the same voice and face for everyone seen through the eyes of our protagonist Michael is a genius touch and very jarring – then along pops Lisa, the only person in the whole world who looks and sounds different and is the light Michael has been looking for.

Bridesmaids

I’ve been aware of this film for ages but put it in the ‘nice for 20 something females’ box and left it at that but surprise!* I really enjoyed it. A great ensemble cast and I finally learnt that Wilson Philips were a band and not just one person (I’m basically a foetus, okay?). *not at all surprising

What If

Look, it’s Daniel Radcliffe not being Harry Potter! This is a gentle romantic comedy which is surprising in absolutely no way whatsoever. It’s a shame that so many modern films rely on technology to further the plot – it’s to be expected, and you’d imagine two people *would* text each other but seeing an old iOS on screen is an oddly jarring experience. I think films should move to using more generic Android devices to alleviate this issue.

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A Most Violent Year

This has been on my to-watch list for a while and I’m glad it delivered. I expected a higher body count, thinking it would be a gentle thriller as one man rallies against the huge levels of crime in NYC. I imagine I was getting my wires crossed with Inherent Vice, another film that was out at the same time. AMVY focuses on one man (played by Oscar Issac) as he tries to build his oil business focussing on quality of product and customer service, something the other providers couldn’t care two jots about. It all comes down to morals – recommended.

Television & Streaming

boschamazonBosch

Some streaming exclusive shows such as OITNB and House Of Cards on Netflix and Transparent on Prime seem very well known whereas I’ve always felt alone in watching and enjoying Bosch. It’s an American crime series based on the books by Michael Connelly and is delivered spectacularly – think CSI but not dull. I really enjoyed Series 1 and was counting down the days until Series 2 was available. It did deliver, with a good number of “ohhhhh!” moments and it was great to see the character of Deputy Chief Irving come into his own. Unfortunately I do feel that Amy Aquino as Lieutentant Billets and Jerry Edgar as Bosch’s partner Jamie Hector were criminally (forgive the phrasing) underused this series – I’d love to see more of their lives in the now commissioned Series 3.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 21.04.12.pngThe finale felt a little rushed and this might be down to them having a little too much plot to deal with. The point about Bosch’s mother, which was featured a few times in S1, became a big part of the finale even though it had been barely mentioned throughout the entirety of S2.

Also, Bosch’s house is shitmazing. Perched on the top of a mountain, it offers amazing panoramic views of LA.

Transparent

Initially I described Series 2 as ‘plodding’ but I grew to like its pace by the end. It’s undeniable that each of the characters is deeply, deeply flawed, but then aren’t we all? We’re not here to follow one person and feel empathy for them, we’re just watching each character continually muck up their own lives. In a pleasant twist though, each major altercation and life changing event isn’t spelt out plainly on screen. You see the build up and the aftermath but not necessarily the moment itself. The historical flashbacks seemed odd at first but as is always the way with these things, their raison d’être was clear by the end and proved to be a wonderful touch. This is a definite binge-watch programme, if you don’t mind the plodding nature of it.

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Highston

Can you tell I currently have a Prime trial subscription?! Amazon premiere pilots of possible Prime productions before delivering entire series and I can see a lot of potential in this. Highston focuses on 19 year old Highston Liggets and his host of imaginary celebrity friends only he can see. It’s very charming although I can see that it might suffer from having too many recurring characters in the long run. Celebrities playing versions of themselves in sitcoms is nothing new and this doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel but I hope it becomes a cult hit. I just hope I recognise who half the celebrities are and it doesn’t become too US-centric (the pilot featured Shaquille O’Neal?)

Please Like Me

I feel part of some secret club watching this in the UK. A minor hit in Australia (not helped by some very poor scheduling of series 2) and a minor hit over in the US too, this will probably never be shown on UK television, which is a real shame – it has cult hit written all over it. I think I worked out that the last Australian TV that I watched was Round The Twist in my childhood, so it’s bizarre to me that we don’t import more Australian originals for British TV other than the occasional Aus version of a game or talent show. You could easily fill hours worth of BBC Two with the decent stuff.

This series continues the story of Josh and Arnold, but you never feel that the story is *just* about them. The fringe characters of Clare and Mae have as much a place in my heart as Josh does and each character is intricately written. They are people and they’re real and they’re charming.  The way it deals with mental health and depression is startlingly real (Josh’s mother suffers from bi-polar in real life) – PLM just seems to ‘get’ life. While other sitcoms put characters in ridiculous scenarios and love triangles PLM presents everything in a realistic manner. Yes, odd things happen but it’s never melodramatic – it’s genuine in purpose and delivery.

New girlfriend Ella’s overwhelming similarity to Niamh is a nice touch but can feel a little suffocating, which I suppose, is tantamount to her well written character and her annoying personality. And there’s John the dog who deserves every animal acting award going.

There’s some really great moments in this series, notably one involving a car in episode 8 and another in episode 9 on an observation wheel. There’s no word yet on a series 4.

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Happy Valley

Everybody seems to have been raving about this, and although good I’m not entirely sure it’s as perfect as everyone makes out. A incredibly great cast and the juxtaposition of both the mundanity of home life and the day to day work of a police officer is what makes HV so good. S2 probably suffered from a little too much plot and a rushed finale – would the chief detective really leapt to his conclusion as quickly as that? Many bits were summed up and ended with just one line in the finale and some never referenced. What was the true relevance of the gang member found hanged in a tree? Was the illegal biscuit woman’s life all plain sailing? What is the Gallagher daughter and trainee police officer actually doing with her life and her alcoholism? What happened with Neville Longbottom?

Other bits

The Great Sport Relief Bake Off a convoluted and bizarre way of getting celebrities to bake cakes (it’s a sport!!!!1!) but thoroughly enjoyable. Never forget Maddie Hill’s “pinch of salt” faux pas.

Crashing I watched the first episode of this after seeing some chatter on Twitter. It did nothing for me, so I’m yet to come back to it.

Thirteen I also watched the first episode of this after seeing some chatter on Twitter. It did nothing for me, so I’m yet to come back to it.

The People vs. OJ Simpson 40 minutes long one week and 50 the next – I’ve never felt more sympathy for the people who schedule BBC Two. Sadly this month I discovered the result of the trial due to a newspaper front page framed in the background of a scene in Bosch, having managed to avoid the news about them finding a knife (?) linked to the case, which was in the papers a few weeks back. Ah, well. Clearly it was made to be viewed with knowledge of the outcome in mind.

First Dates YESSSSSS. God, I love First Dates with all of my heart and watching it on catch up means I get to skip the two minute long opening each week.

Blondie’s New York & the Making of Parallel Lines I haven’t watched a music documentary in ages and I’m glad I took the plunge with this one, tracing the story of Blondie (who I must play on the radio at least four times a week) and their huge commercial success. I also might fancy one of the guitarists (in the archive footage clearly, not as a grey haired man).

EastEnders There’s been some great episodes this month – alcoholic Phil is a masterpiece and Aunt Babe continues her twisted, manipulative edict. And Johnny returns in April – hurrah!

Doctor Who: Boom Town Talking of Aunt Babe, I decided on a whim to watch an episode of S1 of new-Who and plumped for this. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I still knew much of the script by heart, not having watched this for years! That’s what comes of having a book of the S1 scripts as a boy.

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