‘HOME’ (2009)

I have had this saved as a draft since January, but as I’m writing it in a month beginning with a J that makes it fine.

I watched this at a special free screening at Manchester Museum. I was intrigued at the thought of it being made entirely of aerial shots, and also at the prospect of watching a film in a museum because it will make me seem all cultured and what not.

The chairs weren’t very comfortable and the film was too preachy, but the cinematography certainly makes it worth a look if you have a spare hour and a half.

Home, as the poster says, is a film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Please don’t confuse it with the new Dreamworks film HOME, as I presume that they are not even slightly similar.

When booking my ticket I knew genuinely nothing about the film other than that all of it was shot using aerial footage. Further research shows that Arthus-Bertrand is quite a prolific aerial Director and that he owns his own helicam company which has produced a number of aerial films. Aerial is the way forward, or so the aerial camera companies and that danged Hollywood would have us believe.

I expected it would be a lot more like Samsara or Baraka (there is no reason for me to have listed two films here. They are pretty much the same film. I just wanted to show you that I know both). However, as is the great shame in many documentaries, it uses voiceover and this really ruins it. Glenn Close provides the voiceover narration, a null factoid really as the script would have made it unenjoyable no matter who was narrating. Tell a lie from the previous paragraph, I did also know that Glenn Close was providing the narration, and I guess her star power ended up getting butts on seats. Once it had fulfilled the purpose of getting butts on seats, though, all her voice did was smack viewers over the head with obvious observations and overdone environmental rhetoric.

It went on.

And on.

Then there were some on screen titles which said facts about the environment that, while I didn’t know to the number, pretty much had a general idea about. Modern life is ruining the environment – tell me something I don’t know.

I’m being quite harsh here, but I am of the opinion that documentaries should show not tell, and give the viewer space to come to their own conclusions. It is worth a watch purely for the cinematography. It has been watched by around 600 million people worldwide, and you can watch it to on the video below. I would recommend muting the sound and playing some Jean-Michel Jarre instead. Or whatever music you fancy. I don’t rule your life.

I’ve also just remembered that when I watched it they initially played the German version, so had to restart the film in English. This is the second time that this has happened to me at a screening event. The first was at a 2009 screening Some Like It Hot in St Augustine’s Abbey. I would highly recommend both Manchester Museum and St Augustine’s Abbey as viewing venues, though be warned that neither is very comfortable (but the wine at St Augustine’s Abbey helps and is generally delightful).

‘Obvious Child’

If I was to recommend any film about abortion, I would definitely say Obvious Child is the one to watch (sorry there, Vera Drake).

“It’s hilarious, it’s heartbreaking and it’s totally genius”, according to the Moviefone pullquote for the above poster. Indeed, it is all of those things and much more. I can’t remember exactly why I watched it (I always need a reason, dammit) but I do know that it fulfills all of the hype.

2014 was a very good year for indie films. BoyhoodBirdman and Whiplash all received widespread critical and, more surprisingly, awards acclaim, as well as pretty decent box office returns. It shows that maybe the tide is turning and there is room in awards season for shows that are more than just straight up Oscar bait (2016 update: jury’s still out on that one…). The next leg in this development will hopefully be in giving comedy more of a chance, and namely Jenny Slate a whirl at Best Actress.

Jenny Slate should be in everything. I’m putting that out there now and standing by it. She and Kathryn Hahn. Doing comedy and drama and making all of our hearts warm and our mouths smiling.

Obvious Child is about a female comedian in her twenties as she navigates through her work and love life, and eventual abortion. It’s pretty progressive, even in 2014/15, to have the lead female character have an abortion feature as a main plot point. It is even more progressive to have this as very much a given decision. She got pregnant by a guy that she was only seeing very casually and she was in no place financially or emotionally to bring a child into the world, so she did what a lot of women in her situation would do, and do it with no regrets.

Of course there is some emotional resonance to this, but it feels that Slate’s character has more issues in dealing with relationship and life fallouts than with the abortion itself. Much like other modern women do.

Gillian Robespierre (writer/director) and Jenny Slate have another film that I believe is currently in production. Obvious Child was Robespierre’s debut feature, expanding upon her short of the same name (note: film-makers, try it this way round. The system works!). If they succeed in again combining comedy, drama and reality, I will be right at the front of the queue watching it.

As an added bonus there are a fair few scenes of very realistic good/bad stand-up that I’m sure people in the comedy know would fully appreciate. The stage is not the shrink’s couch. Women: deal with your problems at home (and don’t expect any help on a Thursday).

8/10 – women can do films too. Who knew?!

Jane The Virgin

Today I finished watching all of the currently aired episodes of Jane The Virgin, having started watching on Thursday. I’ve been intrigued to watch it for the past few weeks due mostly to the pretty much universal critical acclaim that it has been getting. I’m not too sure if it quite deserves all of the acclaim that it’s getting, but it’s addictive enough to watch until 1am when I have to get up for work at 7am (and I love my sleep. If I don’t get a solid 7 hours I’m a mess for the day. Which I am. Sorry for the poor writing that may result) and for a freshman series is already impressively well formed.

***SPOILERS BELOW***

The first time I heard about Jane The Virgin was online and I brushed it off because it’s on The CW and there’s  a reason that the CW hadn’t previously won any awards (fun fact: I used to have two 90210 posters). The second time I heard about Jane The Virgin was when my friend told me that it is the single worst premise she had ever heard of. In case you hadn’t heard of the premise: virgin gets accidentally artificially inseminated. What a terrible premise! It would just be abortion then settlement.

Also the promo is awful.

In fact, all of the promos are awful. Every week. Just awful. Why do they pitch it as a *scratches record* whhaaaa?! traditional sitcom.

There is no way around the premise. It’s a pretty bad premise on the surface. However, it’s made in the style of a telenovela which means that it is allowed to get away with a lot. Most of the plot points are just straight up soapy ridiculous which I love as they are so soapy and so ridiculous and so cheesy. If you like any type of soap or other soapy ridiculous show (I do. I watch Neighbours and Greys Anatomy and previously watched Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty and enjoy/ed them all immensely) then you will probably like this. It’s fun and relationship driven. And hysterical!

Maybe not actually hysterical. The lines of comedy are pretty blurred at the moment. Looking at the Golden Globes nominees, the shows that are considered “comedy (or musical)” are Girls, Jane The Virgin, Orange Is The New Black, Silicon Valley and Transparent. None of these shows are outright hysterical. There are funnier shows out there, written by comedy writers where comedy and laughs are the main driving force of the series. All of the nominees here, save Silicon Valley, fit more as “dramedy” and while they do have their funny moments, the jokes or whatever don’t have me coming back week after week. The comedy certainly doesn’t sell Jane The Virgin. It’s fun, but without the relationships and hella crazy storylines, the humour really isn’t enough to bring viewers in and I resent that it was nominated in the comedy category over, say, Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Comedy Central’s increasingly strong line-up (another note: the reason I started watching Jane was because I was on a high after watching Broad City and thought “why not?!”).

I was really sold on the series at the end of the second episode which is the best end of an episode tableau in a long time, if not ever.

[I can’t find a picture]

In short, the character that was the baby daddy’s best friend and was sleeping with baby daddy’s wife was killed by being impaled on an ice sculpture.

The midseason finale’s final scene was also strong, with “wheelchair-bound” scarfaced mother of baby daddy’s wife pushed Jane’s Abuela down the stairs.

I don’t know if I’m terrible but when she was pushed down the stairs I was just in absolute hysterics. So soapy and ridiculous. There is a reason that the telenovela is apparently the world’s most popular type of TV show.

I’ve been writing for long enough without writing about the truly good thing about Jane The Virgin: the cast. And, I guess, the central relationships. I’m pleased that Gina Rodriguez has been recognised for her acting as she really is great (though not as great as Lisa Kudrow in The Comeback which I hope she wins all the awards for as she was just phenomenal and I’m guessing and hoping that she wasn’t nominated as its air date meant that she missed eligibility for the Globes) and brings a lot to the role and makes the audience really like and root for Jane. The actresses for the mother and abuela also bring a lot to their roles and credit to the writers as well for making these characters feel very lived-in, believable and multidimensional and the chemistry between these characters is very palpable. What a lovely family. I wish I was Latino if this is what the Latino life entails. The male characters are also fine. Fun. Attractive. And baby daddy’s wife is a fun villain with enough depth to not be too cartoony. Enough on character. All the thumbs up to Gina Rodriguez.

Here are some minor plot/style points that I’ll write about in no particular order because to hell with structure!

There are a lot of storylines. Admittedly, I’ve been watching it a lot while like cooking or sorting my underwear, but between the main miraculous virgin, relationship dramas, Jane meeting her father, her mother and father maybe having a thing, the police investigation – Sin Rostro or whatever, Petra being Natalia really and her and her mother being in the Serbian mafia or something, Petra getting together with the vice president of the hotels, Rafael’s sister’s medical malpractice suit and then being committed, Rafael’s sister’s affair with her stepmother, the whole of Rafael’s family, and then the Jane’s father as telenovela star whole other world. Whenever you look away from the screen and back there’s always a fun surprise and who knows what’s going on?!

The whole dealing of the accidental insemination has on the whole been done really well. There was drama and, thankfully, there’s been a lot of laughs with it. “Shouldn’t you have talked about this before coming for a sonogram?!” “I was accidentally artificially inseminated.” “Oh.”

I’m not as convinced by the telenovela unreality of the glow around Rafael’s head when Jane may have a thing for him and the on screen actual electric sparks between two people who are well suited. Woo woo. It’s not terrible, and I suppose that personally I’m all for it, but in TV serious world it isn’t quite worth the effort.

The on-screen writing is very good. One of my favourites is that Jane’s mother’s two favourite things are Jane and Paulina Rubio. How do I know Paulina Rubio? From that summer I got really into Eurodance and came across this beautiful song and video:

I would also be that obsessed with Paulina Rubio. Paulina Rubio turns up in episode 9. Gotta love a guest star!

ACID IN THE FACE! Love an acid in the face story.

To summarise: Jane The Virgin is a fun show. It’s a solid show. It has a good cast. It’s annoying at times and I’d say is overhyped, even though I do enjoy it. However, the premise really doesn’t get in the way of the good parts of the show and any foibles that you may have with the premise is handled well, though do suspend disbelief and keep in mind that it’s a telenovela. Ridiculous! Hysterical! Morals! Love! Class! Relationships! Life! Lololol!

7/10. Will watch weekly while cooking. It’s got heart, and momentarily makes me feel like I do too. (2016 update: my love for this show has only grown)