The Watchlist: August 2016

Films

The Lobster

I hold my hands up here: I actually watched this film in July and forgot to add it to my list to add to that month’s blog. An unlikely oversight actually as I believe that The Lobster might be up there as one of my favourite films ever. It’s dark and macabre, set in the near future where singletons are carted off to a hotel to find a perfect match. If they’re unsuccessful they’re turned into an animal of their choice. There’s so many layers to this film to go into but I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it because I’d recommend it to anyone. The most interesting element of the film is the hotel itself (run by Olivia Colman) and it’s a shame that the focus shifts away from it in the second half but I understand that the plot had to develop. The visits to the city as they pretend to be couples are interestingly done and the ending to the whole film is so darkly twisted but oddly romantic as well. How far would you go for someone you loved?

There’s a lot of interesting social commentary buried deep within this film. There’s a fascination within the hotel of finding someone with whom you have something in common with, something to bond over and start a relationship. Everybody is pigeonholed into the boxes of what they like and dislike these days, with Tinder et al showcasing your music choices, your favourite films and your Facebook page likes. As much as these do help define you as a person common cultural affinity is not the be all and end all of a relationship. And of course, the other commentary is that its impossible to be happily single. The expectation in this dystopian fantasy is that those who are single cannot function efficiently, they’re a drain and without a mate then your life is pointless. There is an assumption (that I make as much as anybody else) that single people are unhappy in their status and consistently on the hunt for someone. It’s wrong but society presents it in that way – going to a restaurant on your own as a single person? Tragic! etc. Also, amusingly, children are given to couples who argue in their marriage to force them to get along. Au contraire!

the-lobster-trailer-film4

Paddington

I turned against animated films in my teens somehow believing that they were childish. I think I failed to understand that being family friendly does not mean that they’re dull for adults; in fact I’d say most animated films have little nods to the adults with in jokes and innuendo that will go over most kids’ heads. Admittedly, Paddington *technically* isn’t an animated film per se, it’s live action with animation. I remember there was a lot of fear about this movie prior to its release in that it would ruin the Paddington franchise (not helped by Colin Firth backing out) but the end results are utterly charming. There’s a tangible solid plot, it’s amusing and the combination of live action and animation doesn’t look ridiculous. A great family movie, all star British cast and it contains Ben Whishaw, Peter Capaldi and Julie Walters. What more could you want?

The Legend Of Barney Thomson

For a film that only came out a year ago I was surprised to discover I had no knowledge of its existence. I merely plucked for it while scrolling through Netflix and was pleasantly surprised. It revolves around dear old incredibly-dull barber Barney Thomson who spends most of his time shepherding his mother from place to place. Things accidentally spiral out of his control and he becomes Scotland’s most wanted man and the more he tries to fix the situation the worst it gets. This is a twisted film, morose and dark but very watchable – and just over 90 minutes long! Perfect! There’s some violence but this is presented in a heightened sense, not in a comedy grotesque Hot Fuzz way, and there’s a fair bit of swearing (hello Scotland!) but I enjoyed it.

Television

Murder Most Horrid

I hadn’t watched this show for years – it was originally streaming on a mostly forgotten service called SeeSaw which was a collection of a whole host of content from across the BBC, ITV and C4 which you could watch on demand with short ad breaks at intervals. It was probably a little ahead of the curve to be honest and might thrive today (although broadcasters are oddly protective of their shows now, only licensing them to certain services, often their own) – I think the team behind it went on to try and get the doomed Project Kangaroo and alter YouView off the ground.

cast

Anyway, that aside, I remember enjoying series one and two immensely when I watched them. Dawn French plays a different character in each episode in a completely different scenario, all with one defining link – there’s death and a murder involved. These are still incredibly good actually, a little dated in places given it was set in the 90s, but I can see these as being ripe for a BBC Two daytime re-run. Oddly, I found some of the episodes in S3 & 4 incredibly weak , particularly the S3 opener. This seemed odd to me as the show had been off air for a few years before it returned, surely you’d want to come back with a bang? There is some really great plot ideas here though – the abattoir worker who becomes an executioner, the Grim Reaper trying to get to her next appointment and the Head Of Obituaries in a TV company who resorts to killing celebrities to help keep her job. It’s also nice to see some very recognisable actors pop up before they hit the big time! And the theme tune is great too… “as soft as the smoke from a barrel…”

Naked Attraction

Look, I’m not judging you if you watched and enjoyed this show… I did. It feels little smutty and dirty and people were degrading it on Twitter but you have to admit it’s an interesting and original concept. Six naked people are slowly revealed to someone looking for love and they are then whittled down to one to go on a date with. Admittedly, I may have watched this purely to see some naked people on TV originally (no erections though, obviously – I did think judging potential sexual partners on their flaccid penis was a little pointless, but y’know) but kind of got drawn into it all. There were some sound issues with some episodes and the individual booths weren’t mic’ed up properly so you couldn’t here the naked people clearly when they spoke but I think it was an okay programme. It certainly got people talking! The date section at the end though was incredibly abrupt which made it appear like the entire thing was purely to get cocks and tits on TV. There was also the inclusion of lots of faux science sections as if that somehow made the entire thing incredibly relevant: “men with a large Adam’s apple are more attractive to 62% women!”

klopovnik-scene

Fleabag

What a show this is – ostensibly filthy but it’s got some great lines within it: “how did you two meet?” “he fucked me up the arse”masking the huge amounts of pain that are protagonist, “Fleabag”, feels. She’s coming to terms with her best friend’s accidental suicide and more is revealed about it as the series goes on. She’s also desperately trying to be happy and believes that being sexually active is somehow the only way to this. She uses her sexuality as a gateway, believing that’s all she’s somehow worth and yet also trying to stick up for feminist values at the same time. This is really funny but also incredibly mellow in places. There’s been lots of comparisons to Miranda in the press given the looks to camera that Fleabag gives, but these are far cleverer in their timings than Miranda and really involve the viewer in her world. Breaking the fourth wall is one of my favourite dramatic devices, be it in film or books, and it’s used to aplomb here, both unnervingly (there’s a to camera monologue while she’s having sex) and also in a hilarious and an emotionally raw way too.

Jessica Jones

Bit late to the hype on this one. People were raving about it late last year and I was little scared off it by the fact it was marvel product. I’m not big into superhero films. I find them incredibly repetitive and dull, with the same peril each time and the same ‘city destroyed in an epic battle’ ending. And let’s be honest, we all know the superhero will win. I tried to start The Flash TV series and fell off it (Arrow and Daredevil didn’t interest me) but I thoroughly enjoyed Agent Carter, so I knew I wasn’t completely against all Marvel series. Jessica Jones though? Almost outstanding. Like Agent Carter, Jones is portrayed as a human being (albeit with more character flaws than Carter) but with powers and abilities and belief she’s the only one who can bring down the baddy. In this case it’s David Tennant who is formidable as Kilgrave. Always appearing snappily dressed (so envious of Kilgrave’s suits) he can control people with words – whatever he says they do, unquestioning. I was pleased Tennant landed this role in retrospect. Having played the Doctor it must be incredibly hard to be somehow typecast going forward (Eccleston might have been right to quit…) and the similarities between the Doctor and Kilgrave are a little unnerving to begin with – admittedly the similarities are just ‘British guy in a suit’ but STILL.

Jones has a load of people around her, many of whom she pushes away by being the moody bitch that she is. There’s her hallmate who looks so much like musician The Weeknd even his own mother would struggle to differentiate, her best friend the childstar turned talk show host, the bar manager (Luke Cage) she begins a troubled romantic liaison with. There’s a lot to her past though and lots of things that overlap, slowly drip revealed at the show goes on and there’s enough to keep plates spinning in series two. I admit I found the finale a little flat and disappointing but overall the series delivered on an interesting concept incredibly well. Up there as one of the best series I’ve watched.

Also, surprisingly, alongside The Weeknd confusion it turns out Jones isn’t played by the woman out of Torchwood?! Who knew.

The 80s with Dominic Sandbrook

This documentary series got a little bit lost and I feel it didn’t create quite the buzz it could have done, as it was aired during the ‘limpics. There’s a cultural obsession with the 80s; the music, the politics, the societal change and there’s been countless documentaries focussing on it. It’s difficult to tread too much new ground but Sandbrook manages to present it in a light, new way. He presents a host of the things he deems to be the most important and influential in that decade to ordinary people (Delia Smith over Margaret Thatcher for example)  although the obvious bits come into play too. And of course, given the territory, the pop music soundtrack was 💯.

‘limpics

The only time in four years I’ll ever get drawn into the sporting world. It’s just nice to have easily accessible streams and programmes on TV showcasing sports like gymnastics, badminton, handball, diving etc. The BBC’s coverage was second-to-none as always and a special mention should go to the madness on BBC Four every evening with the Copacabinmen, Maria the bride and Dan Walker. Once again all the cynicism and politics in the world seem to broadly disappear for two weeks (particularly on social  media) and its glorious.

All Aboard the Country Bus – More slow TV from BBC Four. Glory days! It alos aired just after the ‘limpics, the perfect antidote to having “our” channel taken over by sports coverage. Someone on Twitter described it as the channel for people who had notes to get out of PE when they were younger and they couldn’t be more right.

Only Connect – back again with a slightly new format this year. I can’t watch it as much as I’d like due to my work shifts but I always enjoy it when I stick it on.

First Dates – don’t get me started on the scheduling madness again. It appeared for three episodes than buggered off. Bloody hell Channel 4!

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