…And to continue the things I’ve been watching since March. Mostly TV with a slight film smattering.
Fast Show Bank Holiday Special, parts 1
and 2 (50 Years of BBC2 series)
(Oooooo – they seem to have lost the knack of this one. The scenes that should have had terrible pathos and desperation lacked it [landowner and gamekeeper], though Caroline Aherne’s scenes seemed just as great to me. Arabella Weir and Charlie Higson doing the painter was good. The man whose name I forget, who used to do ‘This week I have mostly been eating…’ wasn’t there, sadly. The Jazz ‘nice’ man was, and still doing well. But on the whole, it felt odd and strained, and like they are all much happier now, and couldn’t take it seriously. Makes me suspect that humour does work at its best when you have an edge on you of despair or anger, or maybe you don’t get on with your co-workers or somesuch.)
Heroes of Comedy (50 Years of BBC2 series)
(They left out some interesting groupings they could have shown, but this was interesting, and funny. Enjoyed. Made me wish I could have seen Bruiser.)
and Paul on BBC2 at 50
(This was unerringly spot on in many ways – their parody of The Apprentice, with Alan Sugar saying to the contestants “I’m better than you!” instead of “You’re Fired!” for example. This was a joy the whole way through. Especially the honest bit where Paul Woodhouse interviews Harry Enfield about why he wasn’t in The Fast Show, how he hadn’t been asked, and they got loads of awards and his show didn’t get any…)
Mentalist Season 3
(Even though he nearly – maybe – gets to shoot and have his revenge on the killer of his family at the end [Red John], it still feels oddly low key. I had a huge session of watching this consistently, then stopped totally for 2 months and came back to the last 4 eps. Which weirdly killed the vibe; the eps were ok, but I’d lost a lot of the flow and my emotional involvement. Can’t remember what interrupted me specifically for those months, because I was flowing along fine before then. Perhaps I just had too much lowkey police drama and wanted comedy instead or something…)
Wolf of Wall Street
(Anarchic, obscene, and rollercoasterly confirming my prejudices in almost every respect, until the last third of the film where it slowed down and became a bit …I would have edited that last bit to make it much shorter. The ‘Cerebral Palsy’ Qualudes wriggling to the car is UNFORGETTABLE! With Fry, who wasn’t as impressed as I was – he said it didn’t feel like a Scorsese film, which is true, it didn’t .)
(What a WEIRD and strangely interesting and un-understandable film! Misogynist Man sort of vaguely looks into a murder he nosily witnessed via photo, without calling the police; and is distracted by absolutely anything that happens including a mimed game of tennis after which the film just...ends, with zero resolution. It was aided [and not hindered at all] by Fluffhead having a hysterical giggly fit all the way through, piling cushions on top of my head while yelling "Nappy Airport!" repeatedly. It was all very...60s performance art.)
(BRILLIANT! I am now officially aboard whatever bus Fry got on – this is the most happy making and brilliant show I have seen in ages – so inventive, unscared of breaking the rules or of being silly…wonderful. Especially good eps: Epidemiology (the zombie one); Comparative Calligraphy (the one with Annie’s pen and the monkey); Advanced Dungeons and Dragons; Intermediate Documentary Film-making (where Pierce pretends to be dying and freaks out Jeff about his father); Paradigms of Human Memory (where they waste several ideas for eps that never were, just to mock them – how confident they must have been that they had loads of other better ideas, I am in awe); both the Spaghetti Western paintball ones were good too, especially cos of…Sawyer!)
(This is starting to feel a little bit patchy – there are some eps which are falling a little bit flatter – but when its great, its still great. Though a sad lackage of John Oliver this season. Brilliant eps: Remedial Chaos Theory [the timelines one, clever]; Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism [Shirley and Jeff find out she was a cow and made him pee as a kid]; Regional Holiday Music [the Xmas and Glee episode – the rapping of Troy and Abed alone gold plates this episode – REGIONALS, Fry!!!!]; Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts [just excellent – especially Britta realising she’s great at and doomed to be a wife so hates marriage, and Jeff realising he hates marriage because his dad left, a couple made in heaven…]; Digital Estate Planning [the old style computer one, where Abed saves the day with his many computer code writing babies: ‘Hilda my love, I said I’d come back for you…’]; Introduction to Finality [excellent finale – I was laughing out loud more than once].)
Experiment, the remake
(Not half as bad as everyone else seems to think; and lovely to see Krycheck!)
Secret of Crickley Hall
(Oh my god – SAD… Poor Nancy, poor little Stefan, poor twisted Morris, what the hell was wrong with the Crebbins??? Powerhouse performance from David Warner, nuanced. Excellent photography and music, and what a joy to see Iain de Caestecker, who is one of those upcoming keep an eye on actors. Olivia Cooke was good too.)
(The most loveable character I have discovered in a decade or so!)
(Brilliant season from beginning to end, not one duff episode. The addiction angle was very interesting. Good to see Jaime Murray. Dexter’s monologues are wonderful – ‘excellent, the voices are back…’.)
(Much more slow burning and less perfect than season 2, but once it DID get going it was very good. It’s a very stupid idea, that Jimmy Smits would be a murdering ADA, but on the other hand, no more stupid than many other things I have greatly enjoyed – and he was rather a show stealer in his best scenes. Some very good music cues here too, for tension and betrayal. Interesting that the addiction angle is gone and utterly forgotten – a little too convenient. Also, the development of Deb’s character, from slightly stupid and gauche, to badmouthing and confident is …I’m not sure how believable; as is Rita’s character from downtrodden ex beaten wife to bolshy estate agent. We shall see.)
Who: Voyage of the Damned (Xmas Special)
(It’s a nicker – shades of Delta and the Bannermen [people cruising other cultures]; shades of Robots of Death [robots malfunctioning murderously]; Ace wanting to travel [Kylie]…shades of The Poseidon Adventure [climbing through the ship when its broken and stuck…Aliens [the bit with the picker upper thingy and the dropping]. “An echo with the ghost of consciousness…stardust…” - nice line. Toy Story: “You’re not falling, you’re flying.” This was watchable, but nothing that memorable.)
Ghost Stories: A View From a Hill, and Number 13
(These were from the attemped reboot of the old Christmas ghost story by the BBC idea. Usign the traditional fare of M R James stories – these ones were piked for creepy value; whereas the old 70s ones [see some in next bit of review] were not only creepy, but often violent and gory too.
A View From A Hill had the brilliant idea of making a man be able to see a now demolished abbey only through a pair of certain binoculars – so you have brilliant scenes of him wandering about looking like a nutter, with the glasses up to his face looking at apparently nothing, whereas he’s seeing a wonderful view of this ornate an huge building. He escapes his fate to be sucked into the past [the past tries to hang him – not sure why], only to have a rather lovely ambiguous ending: he hears a noise at the station when he is ready to leave, and looks up – and The End. Quite nicely done that – is it just a noise, or is the past coming for him again; and we’ll never know.
Number 13 has a lovely underdone performance from Greg Wise, and a story about a missing room 13 with a devils disciple shadow and lots of stuff with Hieronymus Bosch’s painting. Not as good as the first, but very atmospheric. It again, ends ambiguously, with a stash of missing people’s clothes and accoutrements under the floorboards – and a letter from the devilish Franken that this time, mustn’t have its seal broken. It just ends as they are looking at the things – and this time its annoying, as you feel there is more to it that just isn’t coming. Ambiguous endings are difficult little things to get right. They can either be so satisfying or like this – just frustrating.)
Ghost Stories: Lost Hearts, The Treasure of Abbott Thomas, and The Ash
(These ones were from the early to mid 70’s, part of the original strain of Christmas stories. Watching them, it does make me think what a weird lot we were in the 70s; and it also reminds me why it’s my favourite TV decade.
Lost Hearts was weird [definitely 1973!], and bit gory in places: an eccentric old obsessed with magick man seems to take in stray children, only to kill them in an effort to attain immortality. The latest child is haunted by the spirits of the first 2, one of them playing a hurdygurdy, as is the old man. The ghosts have silly long fingernails and very odd facial expressions. You could say they were creepy – especially the boy with his sickly stuck on grin – but you could also say they were simply blue tinged and Nosferatu ripoff-ish. The children kill the old man and frolic off, saving the life of the last child. It’s all a bit nonsensical. Weird, and a bit memorable, but not that great. And the hurdy-gurdy music annoyed me rather than creeping me out. The whole episode had a very lost in time distant feel to it – THAT was the oddest and creepiest thing about it. Its sense of being lost to us – we could NOT make anything like this now, with this precise feel. Its distance, historically is what is scary…people don’t think like this to make productions like this, now.
The Treasure of Abbott Thomas has more to it. A bit of rational vicar doing some seance busting with young posh intellectual blond sidekick; only to be victim of arcane coded mystery, gets greedy, goes to find treasure and is attacked by its guardian – some menacing oozing black GOO. Yes: beware the goo, when you get greedy! It looks nice and had pace, but seemed strangely distant, and I didn’t like anybody in it so I was unbothered what happened to them. However, it was plot heavy, and that was a nice and unusual change for these little stories, which usually rely on atmosphere alone. [In my head though, this will remain The Goo Story.]
The best was the last one, The Ash Tree. Edward Petherbridge does a brilliant job of being heavy lidded, louche and exceeding posh; and Lalla Ward – what a nice surprise - does an equally good job of being perky and posh. Barbara Ewing does a very good job of being the victim of Petherbridge’s ancestor’s suppressed/repressed lust, and dies after he thinks/imagines he sees her running as a hare at night and calls her a witch. She curses him and his descendents at her hanging, which leads to the bit about the tree. It’s outside the current Sir Richard’s window, and as he increasingly flashes back to the past, when he was Sir Matthew, and we find out about his lust causing the death of Anne Mothersole, the tree is scratching away at his window. In a very supremely weird last section, these insane hairy human headed spider babies come up the tree, down the branches and into his room and eat him/feed off him, until he lays there blackened and dead. They cry like babies, but in a distorted sort of faraway way. A servant catches sight of them and drops a lantern – the tree burns down. It ends with Lalla touching the body of her betrothed and finding her hands are in pain – as told earlier in a story by the local vicar about the death of the ancestor, Sir Matthew. It had a lot in it for half an hour and was sufficiently wild and strange that I was thoroughly involved. It also looked gorgeous.
And those spider baby crawly hairy things were intensely memorable – specially the one single shot you get of one of them next to Edward Petherbridge’s face, with its little deformed mouth open and wailing: shiver. I read this production had practically no money, so I’m even more impressed. THIS was the stuff of nightmares.)
(Not only does John Lithgow steal the show as one of the most creepy, tormented serial killers ever, but the finale had me disgusted and in tears, truly truly shocking. Of course I should have seen it coming. It was the imagery – the power of one particular image and its implications. An absolutely great season – the cat and mouse was addictive. Seriously though – Shocked and disturbed. Chilling finale. Awful, awful thing to do to a child. I was replaying that image in my head for several days, saddened and uneasy – there’s some powerful TV.)
(This was a much quieter more subtle season than season 4. That was so intense and ended so shockingly that I think the production team made a good decision in choosing to make it a slow burning season from a completely different angle. A victim learns to become a vigilante, via Dexter. There’s even a love story, which was very affecting. And then she left, and Dexter is left with the fact he had love but it’s gone now and he’s alone again. I felt Julia Stiles was bit miscast, not enough vulnerability to her. I wonder where it’ll go next.)
Not sure what I’ll be watching for the rest of the year – I’m still finishing some series I started back in February (Scorpion Tales, for one, such nice little 70s snippets, I’m not hurrying at all - one here, one there). It’ll be as much of a surprise for me as for you what turns up in the next lot I post, as I’m almost entirely whim and obsession driven when it comes to TV and film. About the only thing I can guarantee is that I’ll finish Community for sure…