Television, 2015

This was the year that I was most invested in television in my life. Or the first 8 months of it were. The 2015/16 season looks to have had my interest drop sharply off.

2015 was the year that was mostly spent without a TV licenseand when I realised that I disliked most of what is on “regular” TV. With thanks to Netflix and other wholly legal means, I have maintained a steady diet of US TV shows.

This has also been the first year that I have done real television reviewing. Long, long reviews, as detailed earlier in this blog.

Here is what I’ve been watching. In a vague order of memory:

Broad City

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The best comedy on television right now. Possibly the best show on television, but that’s maybe too bold a claim. Masterful.

The Comeback

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Some find this an uncomfortable watch. Some should get themselves together. Lisa Kudrow should have won all of the awards. Worth the 8 year wait (or 2 years since I found out about it). I wanna see that!

Orange Is The New Black

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“I wonder when I’ll have time to watch all 13 episodes of season 3?” I thought as I looked ahead at my full weekend. It turns out, that very weekend. It’s amazing how much free time you can muster up. I watched the Chang episode without subtitles and have no idea what it was about at all. No Jason Biggs!

Master of None

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The show that most exceeded my expectations. Aziz Ansari is far more than Tom Haverford. I used to find him annoying but now I think he may be a semi-genius. I watched this while I had food poisoning. It is a good show to watch with food poisoning.

Louie

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A show that I’m sure Master of None took a lot of influence from. Back to its more comedic roots after a darker season 4, but still serious. I hope the Louis CK pervert rumours aren’t true.

Another Period

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Comedy Central really is doing a lot of good stuff right now. A show that I feel I could have written, but don’t let that make you think that it is no good. Parody du jour, or of the past.

Fresh Off The Boat

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Very variable episodes, but it’s refreshing to see Asian American leads and always a pleasure to have a Nahnatchka Khan show on the air. Every time I think that I’m going to give up, something else draws me in.

Fargo

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I came for Kirsten Dunst and stayed for everything else. Funny, dramatic, ridiculous, serious, who knows what the ending was. Brilliant. Filmic. Yes. I could happily watch each of the characters forever and always. Oh yah.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Another show that exceeded my expectation. I have never watched 30 Rock but probably should, as every 30 Rock fan says that 30 Rock is by far an away the better of the two. But does it have Jon Hamm? It does? For 2016. I watched Kimmy in a weekend. Delightful. Heroin, pinot noir and Xanthippe.

Mad Men

John Slattery as Roger Sterling and Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olso

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Peggy Olson: hero

I didn’t enjoy the ending, or, to be specific, the final scene (Coke song). Otherwise this is the most that I’ve enjoyed Mad Men for a few years and it has surely cemented its place as prestige television. Hopefully awards will come.

Jessica Jones

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For Krysten Ritter. One of my friends said that it was too unnecessarily dark for them. It has a lull in the middle, but is the best (read: only) superhero show that I’ve watched.

The Last Man on Earth

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Only odd episodes, particularly the first and last of each season. An interesting concept with wildly variable results. How much do I like Will Forte? TBD. His beard is rather off-putting, that I can say for sure.

Better Call Saul

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Not Breaking Bad, but not too bad either. Overhyped. Enjoyable enough.

Parks and Recreation

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RIP. A fitting ending for one of the most likeable shows on television.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

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Beat the sophomore slump. Another show that Mike Schur has had a hand in and where the whole cast is freakishly likeable. Fun. And the Jake and Amy thing is fine, with the characters developing enough after 3 seasons to make it work.

American Dad!

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Its TBS showing feels sub-par to Fox, but that may be because it’s getting a bit long in the tooth.

Grey’s Anatomy

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Derek’s death prompted my most emotional reaction to any television show ever. I took a day off to grieve. I have stopped watching Grey’s Anatomy. 

Togetherness

Mumblecore blah that was fine at best. The Duplass Brothers have done better.

Jane The Virgin

I loved this so much that I had to stop myself from watching the second season as time is limited and I am quite compulsive. Soapy ridiculousness at its best. Maybe I’ll catch up over summer.

Archer

A middling season. I think I may be one of the few to have preferred Archer Vice.

Married

Another RIP. I hope that both Judy Greer and Nat Faxon get more good work, and soon. Heartbreakingly real, with laughs to boot.

Masterchef: The Professionals

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Because I don’t solely watch scripted stuff. Quite the obsession for me. Predicted the winner yet again. Buh bam!

I should also probably watch Transparent. No freshmen shows from fall have grabbed me.

This year has also been the year that I finally gave up Keeping Up With The Kardashians. It was only in September that I did this, so there is still opportunity for relapse. But it really is just dreadful, and apparently Kourtney, who I previously thought was somewhat of a soul twin, is dating Justin Bieber. In Memoriam.

For someone that thought I was cutting down on TV, I sure do watch a hell of a lot of TV.

Onto the next year!

 

 

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Films of the Year: ‘The Lobster’

The final of my longform articles on the films of the year, again in no particular order as all three were favourites in different ways.

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This was the only film from London Film Festival that I had any inclination to watch, though not at the film festival itself. No, I would happily wait until it was on wider release and I could watch it cheaper.

Wider release didn’t really come. I googled regularly, but even in central London it was hard to find. One day I walked past The Barbican and it said “now showing: The Lobster”. For three days only at The Barbican, the most indie of independent cinemas. It was sold out, but I went, on the advice of the man on the phone, to see if there were any returns. Thankfully there were. I even got a great seat. Middle and centre. Cinema 2 at The Barbican is one of the most comfortable cinemas I have been to. Cinema 1 is among the least comfortable.

I went alone. This is a great film to watch alone, or, to put it another way, a bad film to watch on a date. There was a couple in front of me. They kissed. They were watching it wrong.

The premise goes that in the world of The Lobsterif you are single, you have 45 days to find a suitable partner otherwise you will be turned into the animal of your choice. In the case of Colin Farrell’s character, it will be a lobster – hey, that’s the title of the film!

The film opens with a short scene of a woman shooting a horse. From this point, I knew that I would enjoy it immensely.

The first half (maybe two thirds?) takes place in a hotel where singles have to try and find their mates. A guy forces himself to have nosebleeds so that he can match with a girl who has nosebleeds. When they go to a yacht, the purgatory between the hotel and the safety of land, they are given a child – just like nature’s way of papering over the cracks of a relationship.

John C. Reilly doesn’t have much luck.

Neither does poor, hapless Ashley Jensen.

Or the woman with no heart, who had some of my favourite scenes in the film. The drowning scene. The suicide scene. Not the dog scene. She got her’s.

This part of the film is narrated by Rachel Weisz. As is the first part in the woods. I spent a long time wondering if she would ever feature. She does! She doesn’t have much luck.

I enjoyed her narration, and the odd rhythms that everyone spoke in. And how it was shot. And cut together. It is dark and dry and exactly my sense of humour. I found it hysterical. The woman next to me was fidgety; I expect that she did not find it as funny and particularly didn’t find it funny that I found it so funny.

If I had a complaint, I would say that the final quarter may be overlong, but I had such a good time during the first three quarters that my good will carried over.

The ending shot is hard to watch.

Though I suppose that this can be said about most of it.

I wouldn’t recommend this to many people, but apparently quite a lot of people have been recommending it. It is odd. It is wonderful. It makes me glad that I am single.

Were I fit enough, it is a film that makes me want to run for miles. As it was, I ran/power walked the whole three miles home the fastest I have ever managed on foot. I felt great. I felt energised. I felt completely (personally) sold on the cinema as an event, a place where films are put on a pedestal above the smaller screens (alas, this realisation has come quite late in life). Here is a film that made me fall deeper in love with film, writing and, importantly, myself.

An odd film for an odd person.

 

Films of the Year: ‘Brooklyn’

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Let me start by saying that I think Saoirse Ronan is great. And that I kind of hate that she is younger than me. And that my flatmate had a legitimate, only half-joking conversation about how it could be great if we could kick our current flatmate (who has lived in the flat for 14 years) out and move Saoirse Ronan in. Moving on.

My flatmate tried to arrange for us to see it several times but we never worked it out. He watched it alone on a Tuesday and said it was okay. By Wednesday he said that it was very good and definitely worth a watch. I went on Thursday.

He also said that at the end of the screening he went to, no-one left their seats so he wondered if there was some sort of post-credits sequence (to Brooklyn?); he looked around and saw that everyone was crying. I watched it at The Barbican and everyone just left when the credits started to roll. Brutal architecture, brutal audiences.

Someone said to me that they didn’t like the book. They then said that they had never read the book, and they won’t because they don’t like the author.

Nick Hornby wrote the script. He also wrote the book About A Boy, a film that I enjoyed immensely in my childhood and have probably watched in excess of 50 times because I have a mildly obsessive personality. He also wrote the script for Wild, the script that I enjoyed most from last year’s crop of ‘for your considerations’ (which are now available for the 2016 award season). After Brooklyn, I will now happily watch any film that Nick Hornby has scribed. I also listened to the Nerdist podcast that he was on and he seemed like a really sound guy which made me like him and his work all the more.

The basic blurb of Brooklyn is: an Irish girl moves to America (Brooklyn, to be precise) for better work prospects. She falls in love. She has to come back home due to a tragedy. There is potentially a love triangle.

This is how it was sold to me at least, particularly the love triangle part.

I don’t think there ever was a love triangle. At no point did I think that she would fall in love with the Irish guy and not return to her husband. It never really seemed that she wouldn’t leave Ireland for New York again. No, if you are looking at this film through the gaze of it being a love story, I think you are missing something.

Or maybe I am the one getting it wrong. If I am, I’m fine with that as I still enjoyed it immensely. I say “enjoy”. I texted someone afterwards saying that it made me feel “bereft”. Us millennials have fun in all sorts of different ways.

To me, this is a film about home and place. Eilis had to leave home as there was no “place” for her in Ireland, that is work, love, or so on. The lingering shot on Saoirse Ronan’s face just before she left the dance conveyed a lot about feelings of tenderness for a place while also saying goodbye. It was quite heartbreaking actually, and says a lot about Ronan’s acting talent and the director’s instincts as it was a notably unusually long time that the camera held just on her face. In Brooklyn she had work, but was painfully homesick. It was not home. Her body was there but her heart was across the ocean. Then her heart found a place. Ah, young love. Only to be ripped out on her need to return to Ireland, where she finds that she has family, a job and (the potential for) love, but her world has been opened and her designation of home is no longer the same.

We are all dynamic beings, and I felt that the film conveyed change and growth in subtly and truthfully.

It wasn’t all big representations of life. Some of the more entertaining parts came when Eilis was rollicking around with her friend(s) in Ireland, giving it that Irish charm, in the boarding house (definitely in the boarding house. Julie Walters is always a star) and on the boat. Ah, the romantic notion of sailing across the Atlantic all but undone in the bucket scene.

The ending was schmaltzy.

“Why the hell did people cry at that?” I thought as I left. “I mean, it was good, but huh, that let it down.”

I cycled home.

I started to cry.

It’s a grower, but there is definitely a level of poignancy in Brooklyn that I haven’t felt from film in quite some time. It was one of the most powerful and surprising cinema experiences I’ve had. Then again, maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age.

Now to practice eating spaghetti.

Films of the Year: ‘Mistress America’

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I was sold by Frances Ha, but Mistress America completely sold me on and made me fall in love with Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig.

My flatmate has Greenberg and Noah and the Whale on DVD, so to celebrate his moving in I watched both films over a weekend alone. I then rewatched Frances Ha. And listened to the soundtrack on repeat (I’m really into soundtracks now. Other soundtracks of note from the year: EdenUnder The Skin). For Christmas, my flatmate got me While We’re Young, which is not Baumbach’s best work, but still succeeds as a window into the cruelty that is reality.

First of all, let us watch the trailer:

Now forget everything that you have just seen, because that trailer is a horrible misrepresentation of the film.

My boss said that she very much enjoyed Frances Ha but didn’t want to risk Mistress America as the second half may fall flat. ?. She later watched it on a plane back from the Maldives (she asked me if I had ever been to the Maldives. Her understanding of my life is tenuous at best), loved it, and proceeded to read a swathe of articles about it, Baumbach and Gerwig.

So what of the film? It is about a college student (Lola Kirke, or ‘Jemima Kirke’s sister’) who moves to New York, fails to fit in, and befriends her soon-to-be-stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig. Is it a coincidence that ‘Greta’ is an anagram of ‘Great’? Most definitely). Brooke is very New York. Like most of the characters in Baumbach’s films, I should hate every single one of them, but they are damaged and this is redemptive, making them more endearing than dislikable. Or, at worst, pitiful.

Brooke is quite a pitiful character. The barber/restaurant sounds like a ludicrous idea, but there is in fact a Polish barber/restaurant near Waterloo. Maybe I will try there some day, though I feel that it would be like I was cheating on de lady called Lady.

The first quarter made me feel like I did uni all wrong.

The second quarter made me miss New York and want to have better friends.

I was then fine with my friends.

The whole scene at Mamie-Claire’s house was farcical brilliance. Aside from the whole ‘wow that film was really real’ feeling I get with Baumbach’s pictures, I enjoy the way that he writes and directs dialogue. No-one, or no-one I know, speaks like this. The rhythms. The snap. The real ridiculousness. Wonderful. Plus it was shot largely as one long take.

They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Yes they do. Case in point. Reviewers say such droll things.

I can’t really remember the end. It was sad then it was fine. I felt uplifted, which is definitely a step-change from Frances Ha. I didn’t dislike any of the characters and thought all the cast were on point (just as in Frances Ha, en pointe).

I watched this on a second date. I suggested the film. It’s a risky move. I went wearing a knee brace and gold trainers. I cared more about the film than the date. We both enjoyed it and walked across the Thames. It is the perfect film for a successful date which ends with a walk across the Thames.

He said he preferred it to Frances Ha. I think I do too. My Chicago-based friend DD went on a date to watch it as well and said that both she and her date preferred Frances Ha. They are different films and I would say which one you prefer says more about you as a person than the films themselves as neither is inherently ‘better’.

On exiting Odeon Panton Street, the most corridor-y of all the cinemas, a 40 year old man and his elderly father both declared to the usher that they “fucking hated it.”

If I were to make films, this is the type of film that I would want to make.

 

Films of the Year (Without Actually Listing My Favourite Films)

It’s that time of year again when everyone’s writing lists! For 2016 I will endeavor to make brevity a more normal practice for me. In that spirit, here are some of my films of the year (but not my actual favourite ones, which will come more in my usual longform writing) with a mini review that says nothing and everything (mostly nothing). Pictures are included. Here we go, in no particular order:

Whiplash

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A film about drumming. Edge of the seat stuff. Should have won the Oscar. I have argued with several people that this is a 2014 film. While I’m being a hypocrite, Under The Skin was my favourite 2014 film that I watched in 2015 and Boyhood was okay, if not overlong, and the script of Birdman was better than the film itself. Listen Up Phillip was okay, but again a 2014 film. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more were I not vacuuming while watching it.

Inside Out

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Pixar has done it again! The audio and visual was out of sync for the whole duration of watching but I still immensely enjoyed it and welled up. My friend who has no soul cried. It is beautiful and insightful and frightfully intelligent.

It Follows

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If life is fair, it will win all of the awards for best cinematography as it is one of the most masterfully shot and well-crafted films that I have ever seen. Like the terrible viewing companion I am, I commented over and over again how well shot it is. The person I watched it with said that the scene in the school (the 360 shot) made him want to be a cinematographer again (alas, money is money is all that money). A horror that is so good I spent half an hour googling it afterwards to figure out what I had just watched.

Iris

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The last film of the great Albert Maysles. Like Grey Gardens before it, it showcases the life of a wonderful old kook. She’s cropped up in other fashion films that I have watched so it has nice to learn more about the lady herself.

The Wrecking Crew

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O! How I love having Netflix back. And watching documentaries about music before I was alive, so I can dream that I was born in another time before quickly remembering that wifi and disposable time and money are wonderful things. Who knew that so few bands played their own instruments? Most people. Okay. Well who knew that one studio band was as prolific as The Wrecking Crew. Not me, at least.

Palio

Palio of Siena

Thanks to Shortlist film club I managed to watch this for free. It was the first time I went to the cinema alone. I ate too much sugar before going (like the child that I am) and ended up feeling a bit nauseous. Regardless, it was very well shot for a documentary, and unfolded like a drama. It’s a horse race, but one that shows how seemingly corrupt the whole city of Siena is. One of my top 3 sport documentary picks. I also got a free Stella Artois glass.

Trainwreck

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The final third certainly was, but that doesn’t stop the first two thirds from generating some of the biggest laughs that I have ever heard come from a cinema audience.

Films That I Haven’t Watched (But Probably Should Have)

Mad Max: Fury Road, Amy, Carol, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Spectre, Tangerine, Sicario, The Martian, The Look of Silence, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict.

Thankfully, a film’s lifetime is not finite and I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities to undo my wrongs in the future.

Additional Mention:

A Very Murray Christmas

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Amy Poehler has had a busy year. And I have had a moderately busy year watching three whole Sofia Coppola films: Marie Antoinette, The Bling Ring and now A Very Murray Christmas. I enjoyed them all, but feel that I like the idea of her films more than I actually like them and as a result kid myself into thinking that I like them more than I do. Jolly holidays.

So there we have it. A good year for film? We are all entitled to our opinions.

‘Spy’

Another Paul Feig and Melissa McCartney film. That sounds mildly derogatory. It’s not. I immensely enjoyed both Bridesmaids and The Heat. First rom-com then buddy comedy and now action/spy film, Feig and McCartney continue with their genre hopping to continued success.

The poster makes it look awful. I wouldn’t watch that film.

Like in Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy plays a desk CIA operative. Here she is Susan Cooper, the eyes and ears of Jude Law’s James Bond-esque spy, who is killed early in the film by Rose Byrne’s Rayna Boyanov. Rayna, it transpires, knows all of the CIA agents. As such, Susan is sent into the field. Hilarity ensues.

This is a genuine action film, and the cross appeal must have helped it immensely in achieving its $203.5million box office to date. Each of the scenes could have been lifted from a ‘real’ action movie, but comedy is added to each of the situations without ever feeling shoved in or even a spoof. You want Susan to win. There are real plot twists. The action sequences are visually very stunning.

Good for Paul Feig who clearly is a very versatile Director who can cross genre with ease and without ever losing the jokes. As a testament to how good an action film it was, I can say that I was on the edge of my seat on several different occasions.

In addition to the solid plot – which I won’t bore you with. If you like action films, you’ll like this. Unless you hate women, then maybe not – the strength comes from the characters. Rose Byrne has gained a lot of praise for her portrayal of Rayna, and she does undeniably kill it in this role (pun not intended). She is the terrifying femme fatale who is also utterly ridiculous and she manages to add textures to a character that could otherwise have just become another one dimensional villain, without the wink (and the ridiculous accent and hair).

The film also made me, for the first time ever!, like Jude Law, Jason Statham and Miranda Hart. Jason Statham was the particular highlight for me, playing a moronic pseudo-parody of the types of character that he usually plays in action films that I never watch (Crank, The Transporter, The Bank Job, etc). Plus Peter Serfinowicz comes in as a randy Italian agent. I’ve just been to Italy and it was quite a genuine portrayal of many of the Italian men that I came across. I did wonder why they cast Serafinowicz, but the end reveal made it worth it. Also, and how could I nearly forget, Allison Janney was perfect as the head of the CIA. Cast Rose Byrne and Allison Janney in everything.

The star really is McCarthy though. I haven’t watched Tammy or Mike and Molly, so maybe I haven’t quite gone through McCarthy overload yet, but I feel that she is never given enough credit. She is consistently funny and there are certainly several different shades to Susan’s character here, all of which are presented deftly by McCarthy. Plus she looked bloody great in ALL of her outfits and convincingly showed off her action chops – although in the kitchen scene seemed to be body double work (Hollywood!).

As with many action films, the ending was just okay. Unlike other action films, it hasn’t been left as sequel bait, which is much appreciated.

7/10 – Feig brings the funny yet again. Worth a watch.

 

‘I Love Lucy And Bekka’: More Laughs From Golden Globe Winner Gina Rodriguez

… and also starring Kristolyn Lloyd.

If you have a spare 20 minutes, I highly recommend watching the web series I Love Lucy & Bekka in its entirety. Contrary to my writing style, I’m actually a big fan of brevity. Most first season episodes weigh in at around one and a half to two minutes, with the longest episode at 3:11.

And worth every second!

ILL&B is written by NBC Universal’s Emerging Writer’s Fellowship finalist Rachael Holder and centres on best friends/roommates Lucy and Bekka, played by Lloyd and Rodriguez respectively.

The episodes are low key and do a good job of having a simple idea, executing the joke and getting out. In this sense, it is definitely a comedy for the internet generation’s ever shortening attention spans.

For example:

“You know when you love a baby, a small child who is being so cute, you just want to throw him into traffic?”

As a girl in my early 20s living with one other roommate, maybe it’s particularly appealing to me as I am pretty much its target demographic. Most of the conversations that Lucy and Bekka have are things that most of us have probably said or heard at one time or another, but everyone loves a bit of relatability.

The series opens with Bekka chatting to Lucy while she’s on the toilet. Girlfriends! Later in the series, Bekka casually walks in on Lucy’s boyfriend on the toilet. Toilet budz!

Sure, not everything worked for me, and as each episode mostly hangs on one key joke, some episodes (“Lemonade“) are kind of duds, but the highlights definitely outweigh the lowlights.

If you only have 5 minutes, I recommend “RIP Tommy“, “Porn” and “Crying“.

With Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez (that’s her full name now) as the star, you can bank on the performances being good. Because the writing and much of the humour comes from very low key things, the performances have to be strong to sell it – which all three actors do.

Whether GGW Gina Rodriguez deserved to win for Best Actress in a Comedy (it should have been Lisa Kudrow) or not for Jane The Virgin, she is still undeniably a great actress, and it’s nice to see her getting the opportunity to do some straight comedy rather than a role that I would say is more dramatic with comedic elements.

The series ends with Lucy moving out, possibly with her boyfriend who featured in the preceding two episodes. I presume this, combined with Rodriguez’ schedule, probably means the end for I Love Lucy & Bekka.

It was fun while it lasted, but I don’t for the life of me know why they released all of the episodes on the same day -especially when there is a story arc in the last three episodes.

Some final notes: I’m a big fan of the costume and production design; the quality of the sound seemed to vary from episode to episode; and there’s a continuity error in episode four (comment with the answer below for a gold star).

‘American Dad!’ Finally Makes Itself At Home?

American Dad! is a strange show – and it’s been treated equally strangely over its history.

While every episode but four of its 10 season run aired during Fox’s Animation Domination, it struggled to pull the numbers of air-mates The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show or even Bob’s Burgers.

From my straw polls amongst friends and online, it seems that American Dad! is seen as  Family Guy‘s bastard cousin: less funny, less good, and too political (people are entitled to opinions even if it is of things that they know nothing about).

Making that comparison is like comparing Family Guy to Johnny Bravo; sure Seth Macfarlane had a hand in it, but they’re nothing alike when you look at the humour and construction of the shows.

It is the least Seth Macfarlane of any Seth Macfarlane creation – with the exception ofCosmos – and his voice is pretty much the only thing he’s lent to the show since the end of the first season (or midway through the second).

The scheduling of American Dad! has been odd throughout its Fox lifespan. Season one officially had seven episodes, ending with “Deacon Stan Jesus Man”, while the production run ended with “It’s Good To Be Queen” – the 12th episode of the second season.

I always felt the first season ended with “Stan of Arabia Part 2″, which isn’t based on anything in particular, although it does feel like the show really got going after that point. And the DVD box sets don’t give any answers at all (which is why DVD is a dying format).

If Wikipedia is to be trusted, American Dad! has a pretty substantial backlog of episodes. It’s also hard to associate episodes with a particular season, as their production order and airing order rarely matches up. And, even in cartoon terms, there’s very little growth or developments for the characters; story arcs are rare and continuity seems largely unimportant.

There are, of course, ways you can tell that a particular arc is in place: Jeff and Hayley are on the run, or Jeff is in space. You can also tell when the show is in a ‘tonal season’, where the voice or quality is quite consistent, such as season one or season five – the first season with the new opening, and my personal favourite.

American Dad! is a dark and surreal show, and this has played both to its favour and its detriment. It has less broad appeal than Family Guy (think of that statement what you will) meaning many initial viewers were turned off when they weren’t given more of the same,  but that same brand of humour also won it a substantial cult following.

It isn’t afraid to be very dark and shocking –  but in an intelligent or interesting way, as opposed to shock for shock’s sake because outrage is good publicity. It also takes stylistic risks, with episodes serving as homages or parodies to the apocalypse, James Bond, indie cinema, and plays to name a few.

In case you hadn’t already heard, American Dad! also moved to TBS in the fall. Its last episodes on Fox were buried in preseason in a fitting testament to how they treated the show in its life there. Animation Domination is dead, and Fox is trying to make way for newer (read: more profitable; better viewing figures) shows.

Cable to the rescue!

The move should be the biggest change to the show, but it is the departure of co-creator Mike Barker that will probably have the largest impact on the future of American Dad!

The official line is that he left over creative differences at the beginning of the 11th season’s production, though I can’t really see a huge change in the creative direction of the show since its TBS airing, which may be to do with the huge backlog of already-produced episodes.

TBS have been actively promoting American Dad! and have given the show bigger creative balls, even if this only amounts to letting them say shit and tits. The renewed 12th season is also the longest in the shows history, at 22 episodes.

It seems TBS cares about the show in ways Fox never did. Granted, it probably gives TBS solid ratings compared to its other original programming, but the renewal is a huge vote of confidence, especially for a show going into its 200th episode.

This is hopefully the chance for American Dad! to reach new creative heights, with freedom that just isn’t possible on network TV. The animation and overall quality doesn’t seem to have dipped or changed too much so far – at least when compared to the last two or so seasons on Fox – and by physically distancing itself from the Macfarlane machine, it may finally find its right audience.

‘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?!