The Watchlist: March 2017

I’ve been moving flat this month so I’ve watched far less than usual – here we go though…

Television

Line of Duty S1 and S2

This show completely passed me by to begin with. It wasn’t until people started raving about S3 last year that I sat and took notice, but it was only the imminent airing of S4 that made me finally get round to watching them. It’s a really strong premise: an anti-corruption force investigating bent coppers and their criminal connections (in the East Midlands no less – whoop!). Steve Arnott, the guy I want to call the protaganist or at least an ‘integral character’, is recruited after standing up for what’s right when an antiterrorism operation he’s running is botched. For the first series I struggled to understand if the acting and portrayal was a bit pants and there was some very wooden delivery that I couldn’t put down to a poor script. S2+, however, the performance seems to improve and be more settled and comfortable. The other performances are difficult to fault.

Line of Duty has more twists and turns than a maze. Anyone who’s watched it can testify that, it’s not a show where you can in anyway predict the direction of the plot. Things happen thick and fast and for a show where a bunch of the drama takes place during long repetitive police interviews there’s never a dull moment. Out of these two series, however, I was disappointed by the ending of S2. It seemed to peter out in my opinion, and the use of a flashback seemed a lazy way of conveying the truth with little character retribution after a series full of thrills and spills. The way the series end with non-action shots and overlaid captions as if it was based on real events, however, nicely wrap things up without being reliant on forcing extra drama. I eagerly dive into S3 and S4.

Grace & Frankie

If you ask me at any time outside of a new series of G&F hitting Netflix, I’ll happily tell you I love the show. During the process of watching it though? I’m not so sure. The extended family of children has always felt like a bit of a spare part to me, in particular, Frankie’s two adopted sons. I don’t know whether to put this down to under-utilisation or over-utilisation. Every scene they seem to be in they appear to be superfluous to requirements*. In S3, however, I was pleased to see the strongest of the bunch, Briana, have her character continue to grow into something more tangible.

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In a rare move, I’m including an image that’s *not* taken from the show in question. Why? The clutch! OMG the Jane Fonda mugshot clutch! Iconic.

The show’s almost definitely seems to have gone down the route of Amazon Prime’s Transparent route: a comedy about family that, a few series in, has become more of a drama than a comedy, and can barely be called a dramedy. There’s not all that many ‘funny’ moments or lines here and those that there are are often given (and rightly so!) to Lily Tomlin aka Frankie. It’s disappointing that plot ends up getting in the way of tight editing and strong lines, but that is the Netflix way. On the other side though, it’s great to see a show appear to deal with aging so sensitively and properly. I want to say ‘correctly’ at this point but that’s not something I’m qualified to judge barely being out of the fetus stage in terms of my life experience and age. Retirement, health, and fear of dying, appear throughout – and even the panic from the children in terms of their lives appears. Are they happy? Should they be somewhere in life that they’re not?

 

In all, it’s not the greatest series in the world but it’s still enjoyable. One thing it’s difficult to settle into from the off though is the glossy nature of how it’s filmed. It’s very ‘shiny’ and if I was more well versed I might be able to point to it being 25i or 50p or something, but the stylisation does look odd for a comedy drama. It appears almost like they ticked the ‘reality series’ box on the cameras when filming.

Sidenote: I was very disappointed that the Murder, She Wrote reference in the series finale was inaccurate. While talking about food ingredient lists Frankie comments that she expected them to be listed in “order of appearance like on Murder, She Wrote”. Guest stars are in fact listed in alphabetical order, a decision made by the show’s creators from the off to forgo celebrity egos. Don’t at me.

Broadchurch

Let’s cut to the chase: Broadchurch 2 was a bit pants. Broadchurch 1 was good but it wasn’t as amazing as people’s collective memories seem to have moulded it. It was quite predictable in the final few episodes, but it’d been a long time since there was a long one-case week by week crime drama on the telly so people went a bit mad. And Olivia Colman’s fame has skyrocketed in recent years, and there’s Tennant so obviously there was a losing of minds as to the potential of S3.

Thus far, it seems to be plain sailing. The script can be a little obvious and clichéd at times but the performances are all very strong, and the imagery and visuals are great as usual. There’s a list of suspects as long as your arm and I’m sure week by week this will be stripped back until someone who wasn’t a suspect is the one whodunnit. My money’s on the vicar: the other’s are too obvious.

All being said, there’s a great linking of themes in this series. Misogyny, rape, teenage sexualisation, what it means to be a woman – it’s clearly carefully crafted. Not so sure what I think of the odd newspaper sub-plot though. It appears to just exist with no real reason.

Inside No 9

This is another series I see a lot of chatter about on Twitter, and not a speck of criticism. There’s a lot of comparisons to Tales of the Unexpected in terms of the twists and the way episodes are written and pan out – each thirty minute episode is a mini tale, presented with just a few cast members and all in one location. One location for thirty minutes could almost prove to be a little dull and tiresome in some hands but Pemberton and Shearsmith. Each of these tales would work just as well on stage as on the telly and it wouldn’t suprise me if at some point in the future there was an anthology stage show.

Some episodes are weaker than others and I’m not as enamoured by it as some on Twitter but it’s undoubtable that it’s unlike anything else on telly at the moment. S1&2 have now appeared on Netflix so I’ll be sure to watch the episodes I’m yet to see.

Films

giphyMoonlight

It proved near impossible to go and see Moonlight on its initial release. The nearest cinemas showing it were over an hour away and it wasn’t until the Oscar win that Odeon begrudgingly added it to their roster for a few evenings, but alas, it disappeared as quickly as it appeared. I was making a trip to Nottingham for a gig one weekend so went a few hours early to allow time to see it. Moving, poetic and full of pathos, I enjoyed it, ’nuff said.

Toast

Browsing through Netflix the other evening I saw this film from a few years ago that completely passed me by: a little (kind of) independent film starring Helena Bonham-Carter and Freddie Hamblin and based on the childhood of well known chef Nigel Slater. It was an unexpected find to say the least. Around the ninety minute mark and with an all-British cast I settled down to it with a certain sense of expectation: this already ticks two of my film boxes.

I found the first hour or so quite enjoyable but its when the clock shifted forward five or six years it collapsed in on itself for one reason: Hamblin, Freddie. I don’t know if the script just became suddenly clunky or if there was something wrong with the delivery but it felt like a different film at this point. Bonham Carter continued on fine as did the Father but Nigel’s charter just no longer worked and seemed to be a complete shift away from what we’d seen up to that point without any radical change in his character. It was quite bizarre and unsettling. Also, I’m not quite so sure how realistic it is (spoilers) for Nigel’s epiphany, father dying, first gay kiss and escape from home to all happen in the same afternoon. But hey, it’s a film right? 6/10

*tautology?

 

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