Film & TV Weekly Round-Up (9/5/14)

Why is Saturday night television so boring? I like watching ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, I admit it, the variety element is fun and old school. But after 9pm the schedule is dead on its feet. That’s probably why I gave in, exploited my position (my parents’ position) as a SkyOnDemand subscriber and watched the first episode of the new season of ‘Hannibal’ before Tuesday’s premiere. And it was so good. I must admit I’m a recent convert to ‘Hannibal’. I love Bryan Fuller but had never taken much of an interest in the Hannibal Lector stories. A friend suggested I watch season one, which I did about a fortnight ago (it’s on SkyOnDemand if you are interested). At first it seemed a bit clinical and full of psychoanalysis, but then it began to get quite atmospheric and dark. There is something really rich about the atmosphere, and I love it. Pretty much every major character is involved in psychology and they sit around thinking they understand each other, but it’s all based on pretty two-dimensional thinking. They don’t really see or feel the real darkness that’s ploughing through Will Graham’s mind. It’s fascinating and I really appreciate that the show doesn’t try to label what Will and Hannibal are. Because essentially they possess the same kind of darkness, just allow it out in different ways. It’s brilliant, you can tell by the length of this paragraph how much I love it.

I didn’t get around to watching my new Blu-Ray of ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ until Sunday afternoon. And it was just as I remembered it being in the cinema, which is good, I have been dissappointed before. Someone in The Guardian wrote an article a while ago about how Stiller’s direction in the film is indicative of a generation of directors who were brought up on MTV. Meaning that they thought there were a lot of visually reliant, soundtracked sequences in the film. Which is true, and but I don’t think it’s necessarily music videos that inspired this. I have a similar mindset when it comes to thinking about making films, and I think it’s mainly influenced by 80s montages and early 90s cinema, when popular music was laid on thickly to amp up the drama. The fact is that ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ is a film where the protagonist spends a lot of time by himself so the music is essential to the atmosphere. On the whole I really like this film, and I appreciate the sentiment of ‘seizing life’. Sure, there are a few tiny moments where I felt a bit bored because it lacked the depth I felt it really should have had, but it’s overall a brilliant piece of filmmaking by a first time director. And that scene where he skateboards down the mountain, that alone is probably my reason for liking this film so much.

On Monday I decided to give in and catch up on ‘Game of Thrones’. I’ll be honest, I only started watching it last year and have stuck with it in the hopes that the misogyny would eventually fall down by the way side. Although I had missed episode two of this season (where Jamie rapes Cersei), I didn’t put myself out to watch it on demand. By the time I finally decided to catch up, this episode had timed out so I was only left with episode three. And afterwards I decided to give up on ‘Game of Thrones’. Look, we can have the culture argument, the political argument, we can even go over my own argument (which is that rape is now used in television as a cheap narrative tool, to create drama. But because it’s not written properly it trivialises the horror of the act.) but, ultimately, I DO NOT want to see sexual assault and rape on film or TV. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of times when it’s an important part of the narrative and I’ve watched films where it’s been used. I say ‘used’, because it’s never absolutely vital to the story, it’s a narrative tool. But I never get used to it, and I don’t like watching it. Ultimately, as a woman, I’m told on a daily basis that there could be a rapist around every corner, and when I sit down to enjoy a television show I don’t want to be reminded of it. It makes me anxious, and scared, and sick. What’s that I hear you say? ‘Game of Thrones’ is set in medieval times? This sort of thing happened then? Well, y’know what? Daenerys has fucking dragons! This is a fantasy would and I don’t think I’m asking for the moon when I ask for less misogyny. And that’s it, I’m stepping away.

Later on Monday I finally got to see ‘Blackfish’, which is a fantastic documentary. I expected something about how Seaworld treated their killer whales. But it was more than that. It was about the killer whales that had actually killed trainers, and how Seaworld were ultimately responsible for putting both the animals and the trainers at risk. It’s a story of cruelty and ignorance. I’ve watched quite a few nature documentaries about killer whales and see how they kill, it’s quite disturbing. The idea that Seaworld think it’s okay to put humans in the water with them is terrifying. But it is the cruelty to the whales themselves that is really heartbreaking. I really recommend you see it.

On Monday night I’d been flicking through the channels and saw that the Drama Channel were playing a mini-series of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ through the night. I saw ‘2008’ and ‘David Morrissey’ and thought it would be worth putting on the Sky+. On Tuesday I discovered it also starred Dan Stevens and Dominic Cooper and lots of other lovely people so I spent my Tuesday evening watching the full series. And it was brilliant. It really did go and above and beyond Emma Thompson and Ang Lee’s film. Andrew Davies (who we all know to be good at this adaptation stuff) did a brilliant job. What really struck me was how much more interesting Dan Stevens’ portrayal of Edward Ferrars was, when compared to Hugh Grant. I later found out that Davies had been unimpressed with the amount of time spent on Ferrars in the book and had created extra scenes. It was really worth it. Ferrars is no longer some bloke on the sidelines, he’s a very real and complex man, which just adds to his and Elinor’s love story. It was all very good. So pleased.

Wednesday I was still tidying my bedroom (post-decoration moving of boxes etc.) and so decided to put ‘A Bug’s Life’ on in the background. I know it’s not the most lauded of Pixar’s films but it’s nice and, more than anything, represents something to me. It was the first Pixar film I saw in the cinema, it was also the time when everyone realised that Pixar were going to make a habit of making these lovely films, which was nice. And it pinpoints a time in my life when my subconscious mind decided on certain things for me. And now, sixteen years later, I am still someone who wants to drink some kind of elaborate coffee while watching a Pixar film.

Later that day I decided to catch-up on ‘Derek’. I thought series one was a bit sentimental. And had decided that Ricky Gervais was too sentimental by himself, and that Stephen Merchant was too cringeworthy by himself (see ‘Hello Ladies’, or don’t, it’s very cringeworthy). But I thought I’d give series two a try. Which I did by watching the previous week’s episode on Wednesday night, and that night’s episode on Thursday morning (don’t you just love catch-up?). And you know what? Now that the characters are becoming a bit more complex, and Ricky’s moving further towards a darker kind of humour, I really quite like it. I’ll see what I think next week.

Yesterday I decided to watch a bit more of my Charlie Chaplin DVD boxset. This time it was ‘The Circus’. I liked it, there was sections I loved, but it didn’t grab me the way ‘The Kid’ or ‘Modern Times’ does. The AMPAS gave Charlie a special Oscar for ‘The Circus’, and rightly so. His direction is impeccable, the scenes in the mirrored room are especially good. But sometimes a film is just a really good film but not a great movie, and I guess this is one of those times. Sorry to be ambiguous, I guess what I’m saying is that it was nice and interesting but didn’t leave a lasting impression.

Finally, after an eternity, I got the BBC ‘Hawking’ TV special from LoveFilm today. Which I am very excited about. It’s pretty much impossible to rent or buy on DVD now. A few years ago I couldn’t sleep at about 2am in the morning and discovered it playing on BBC Three or Four. It was the last few minutes but I naively thought I could watch it on iPlayer the next day. I couldn’t. I don’t know what’s going on with the rights to this thing, but someone’s missing a trick. Benedict Cumberbatch playing Stephen Hawking? Everyone wants to see that. And now I get to.

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