The OA: Review

I feel quite uninspired writing this review, and perhaps that is the best way to begin discussing the OA: it was fine, I watched it but I really don’t have a lot else to add.

Nonetheless, I will have a go at ‘adding’ something:

The plot was, to be fair, captivating and fast paced. However, the strange mish-mash of genres and elements can leave you feeling a little empty. It is a strange mix between spiritual, religious and supernatural in a way that feels a little like watching a car crash – you can’t look away but you don’t fully understand what is happening either…

I found it a little ‘preachy’. This might be my personal preference in television but I really dislike it when a series seems a little condescending in their desire to ‘show’ you the correct path. The show seemed almost parable-like in its desire to show an affinity across all people and in the way that the OA was influencing people – although, with the link to angels, perhaps this was intentional.

In this regard, It is interesting that OA’s spiritualism was foreign – the links to Russian legend and religion were interesting if not a little awkward considering the implications of America’s current relationship with Russia.This is what I mean about the show being preachy, whether it meant to be or not, it was politically charged and a little ‘hippy-dippy’. Whilst the underlying moral, to treat others kindly, is always a good one we are of an age now where this can be displayed in a more subtle and sophisticated manner than the show allowed.

However, as mentioned, the story was captivating – like OA’s listeners I, too, found myself watching her story with baited breath, which is perhaps why I felt a little let down by the ending. I was expecting either a great supernatural epic – some conclusion to the story that she had been telling or an epic cut down showing that she was insane (though I do feel this trope is a little cliche now). I feel like we got neither, it hinted at her being insane but nothing was concluded (perhaps in preparation for another series? Who knows) and the narrative of her relationship with Homer was left open.

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I know some people found the show too weird, and whilst I enjoyed the supernatural elements of it I will admit that the ‘moves’ they discovered and then practised were a bit strange to watch, especially as the series is filmed in such a realist style. Even the image above has an element of realism – there is glass behind them, therefore they are in a room. This immediately creates tangible space rather than something totally metaphysical. This realist style serves to make the series more unsettling, and I can’t decide if this is a good or a bad thing. I think we are more used to obvious CGI or unapologetic recreations of iconic images, such as in Stranger Things, where the allusions to other similar shows and films almost act as an excuse for the type of nostalgic science fiction it indulges in (Sidenote: I love Stranger Things and I think it is a far better series than The OA). The OA did something different and the result is a new type of realist science fiction television which is both fascinating and a little bizarre.

As you can see my responses to the show remain the same no matter what I am talking about… I’m still unsure but I think I liked it…

Have you watched it? What are your thoughts?

Sherlock Season 4: The Final Thoughts

Now that the much-anticipated Sherlock has come to an end, I want to gather my thoughts about it. As you may be able to tell from previous posts, I am a fan of Sherlock and I was truly looking forward to the series…


I really enjoyed it, on the whole, but I felt like it became a totally different creature this series than in previous seasons. It became more of an action film, even a horror film at times, than a detective story. I think this was only natural as the characters grew and more characters were added  -the existence of Mary was perhaps the main starting point which grew with the introduction of Eurus (women change the genre? hmmm). The effectiveness of Eurus as a villain remains to be seen in my opinion- the final episode, her episode, seemed to become a Saw film rather than a Sherlock episode. Whilst I fully admit that I enjoyed watching it, I was captivated, it was a different thing than I was expecting and felt a little too ‘out there’ at times.

But is this just the way a modern Sherlock would be? Maybe he can’t be contained in one genre any longer. Would a modern private detective be a different mode than those classic stories, having to be more aware of assassins, helicopters, bombs, terror, and the dreaded secrets of the British government? Maybe. I think they got away with it, anyway.

My other complaint with the final episode was a lack of consistency – for instance,  why was John suddenly able to be pulled out of a well by a rope, when previously we were told his feet were tied to the floor? It is as if the episode ran out of time. And, frankly, I remain a little confused about whether Euros actually did all those things or not, and why she was locked up again (any thoughts anyone? Was I the only one that missed it?).

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On a more positive note, expecially as I do not wish to be damning – the acting was, as always, phenomenal. Aside from Cumberbatch and Martin, Sian Brooke who played Eurus was beautifully creepy and Moriarty’s (Andrew Scott) cameo – sublime, and I think the creators did well to make sure he remained dead but use his presence to taunt the audience. I love the way this series has a dialogue with its fanbase! I also have to mention my two favourites: Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) and Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), wonderful as always.


Despite the plot holes and bizarre departure from the detective genre, I enjoyed the spectacle and the series was captivating to watch. WiIl they do another series? The conclusiveness of the final episode suggests not and it was a fitting, if indulgent, end. But some sources say that Moffat has drafted a fifth series and as they managed to whittle down the character list again to “two blokes in Baker st” (and a baby – doesn’t that sound like a sitcom?) they have the potential of doing a few episodes rewinding it back to the original concept. The creators managed to leave it so the series doesn’t need more added to it, but they could if they really wanted to. I’d be interested to see where this goes, and no matter what I will always be a Sherlock fan.

2016 Favourites

This is coming out far later than I intended it too, but I think it is nice to look back on the positives of 2016, whether physical or memories. So, if only for my own references, I give you my 2016 favourites (posted halfway through Jan).


Memories:

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Graduation. I finished my degree and graduated with a good grade. I feel both proud and a little bereft at being spat out into the world, but I did it!

My sister’s prom. Alongside my graduation my sister had her prom which was quite a symbolic moment for her growth and I was proud to see her go to it.

A general sense of personal peace, January – June was the most comfortable I have felt with myself, my intelligence and my personality.

I passed my driving test! Enough Said.

I won a special commendation in a Poetry Competition, which really boosted my confidence for writing poetry.

Trip to Haworth – a pilgrimage I have wanted to make forever.I’m such a nerd.

Unfavourites: Brexit and Donald Trump. Well, we’ll be facing the reality of both this year.

Makeup

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Zoeva En Taupe Palette. This may be the only makeup review I have ever done and, considering how guilty I felt buying it, it has been a surprising favourite. I use it nearly every day.

Laura Geller French Vanilla Baked Highlighter. I don’t like very intense highlights and this one is lovely and subtle. New, but a definite favourite.

L’Oreal Cushion Foundation. I love this so much more than I thought I would. So brilliant for early mornings where you can just slap it on your face and run out to catch your train.

Nyx Butter Gloss in Angel Food Cake. You can tell this is the year Nyx came to the UK, right?

Skincare

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Clarins Peach Comfort Toner. I got a sample of this earlier in the year, and whilst I don’t know if I could justify the cost of it personally it is so lovely – so hydrating.

Origins Out of Trouble 10-minute mask. Really saves my skin and heals rather than dries.

Pixi Glow Tonic. I put off buying this for so long but it is incredible. Worth it!

Lush Fresh Farmacy facial soap. Lovely, simple, re-purchased.

Television

Victoria. Hands down best TV of 2016. See my review here. (Side note: It’s a tiny bit awesome that I have blog posts that I can actually reference in this post. Cool.)

Film (This is where you realise I have not had the disposable income to go to the cinema in a while…)

Labyrinth. Never seen it before and poignant memento to Bowie. Funny and heartwarming, if cliche – I really enjoyed it. Review here.

Halloween. One of the last films I wrote about for my degree. Got a First. Not the only reason I love it but it’s a big one. A cult classic – don’t bother with the sequels though.

I’m sure there are more but I can’t think of any. Another possible resolution for this year is to go to the cinema more….

Books

Poetry was big for me this year but I don’t feel like I can name any off the top of my head. This was also the year I got back into reading, but I can’t remember what started me off. I am a big fan of Gail Carriger and Catherine M Valente though, and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Reminded me of my love for the Gothic. This was a stand-out book from this year.

Misc.

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The Tiger Balm Neck and Shoulder rub. AMAZING. I get such bad neck pain, I actually don’t know how I would live without it anymore.

Forever21 £2.50 Crop tops. £2.50! Enough said!


This has left me feeling a little more positive than my previous new year post, even if much of it has been a recount of the material elements of my life – they shouldn’t be discounted, I think. So, what is in store for me next? I did Aerial Yoga today (so good!) and I am keen to keep trying and keep improving (Yay! Much better than the last attempt!)

To Walk Invisible (Wainright, 2016): Review

To Walk Invisible aired on BBC1 last night and I was very excited about it – I love the Brontes and made a trip to Haworth earlier in the summer to see the Bronte Parsonage Museum. I was unsure at first, author’s lives are difficult to depict and easy to romanticise, but I was pleasantly surprised and I think Sally Wainright did a wonderful job of showing the Bronte sisters as real people in a difficult situation whilst still maintaining the idolisation of them as inspiriational women and inspirational authors.

 

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Charlotte, Emily and Anne

 

The acting was phenomenal, as someone who has never particularly been a fan of Emily Bronte the dramatisation of her and the depiction of her complex personality was spot on – sympathetic but also angry. Chloe Pirrie was a dream to watch and truly emphasised the complexity of the woman who could have dreamt up such a bitter and complex tale as Wuthering Heights. Finn Atkins’ depiction of Charlotte was also very good, and, once again, she is a representation of her works – Jane Eyre is ‘poor, obscure, plain and little’, so is Charlotte. Anne, similarly, is a much more gentle soul, which comes across in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  

All in all the characterisation was exquisite, and I loved the way Wainwright emphasised the difficulty of their situation living with a drug addict and alcoholic. It makes them more human – Branwell’s (Adam Nagaitis) problems and the problems that they cause are still relatable, and the complex representation of their sibling relationship (they clearly love each other but it is sometimes difficult to show it) also rings true of modern families. They are not overly romanticised in this adaptation (though, of course, there is a little bit of that) they are real people, in a small parish, with ambitious, risky money-making schemes and proper Yorkshire accents. It is a representation that suits them.

 

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A crisp, clear image and the vivid moors show the intesity of imagination

 

The cinematography was spot on, the filming was clever and unique, with beautiful framing and clear colour, unlike Witness for the Prosecution which totally overdid the atmosphere to the point of alienating the spectator, the dullness of the rural and industrial North in Victorian Britain in To Walk Invisible was emphasised through set design and the colours within it, no obvious overlay. This is particularly successful in contrast to the bright colours of the moors, obviously where Emily in particular finds her inspiration. This contrast is done so subtly the spectator can catch it if they wish or choose to not acknowledge it but be guided by it. There was some standout camera work also; drone shots with Emily marching across the moors, beautiful framing within the house using doorways – really lovely. I will admit that the dream sequences were a little strange, and the ending was a bit abrupt but apart from that I was very impressed.

The depiction of Haworth and the parsonage was tremendous also – it was exact. Anyone who has been to the museum will see that, apparently they built the house and nearby houses from scratch as it was no longer possible to use the actual house and the attention to detail is amazing, the corners and shapes and walks of the house were absolutely perfect. I cannot gush about it enough: incredible.

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The set of the Parsonage being created with incredible attention to detail.

My only complaint would be that some things were not clear unless you are a big fan of the Brontes. I think that Wainwright missed an opportunity to do a mini-series giving a little more background, especially about how the siblings got into writing in the first place as children. I would argue that two hours is a bit long for a TV period drama, especially as they tend to plod and do not often have a moment of peak drama. To Walk Invisible was intense all the way through, but didn’t really have a crux point, the publication of Jane Eyre and the success thereafter was left for watchers in the know to fill in, whilst this is not necessarily a problem, and indeed worked quite well, I feel this is a more televisual tactic that would have led itself to a series rather than a film.

For those of us that love the Brontes, and have secret, hidden aspirations to walk along the moors and write books which touch hearts and stand the test of time, it was a real treat and the best television drama on this Christmas. A fine way to round off the celebrations of the bicentenary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth.

Witness for the Prosecution, Rillington Place and the mystery of the Green Murk

Witness for the Prosecution (2016) missed the mark for me – too determined to be edgy, too much sex, swearing and coughing which felt a million miles away from Christie’s original text, and, without wishing to sound too prudish, a tad awkward to watch with the family on Boxing Day….

Crucially what I found difficult, and this is as someone who likes art cinema, it unbearable to watch because of the murky muse en scene, which, whilst I appreciate is a stylistic choice is only effective used sparingly. I found the consistent murk combined with slow motion not only unnecessary and detracting from the performance of the actors (who were fantastic -especially David Haig and Toby Jones) and from the story. I could barely tell you what happened because I simply didn’t care.

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Rillington Place (2016) used the same technique, arguably slightly more effectively; the murk wasn’t quite as pervading and there were moments of much-needed clarity both in and on the screen. Witness for the Prosecution overdid the atmosphere so much that the seaside scenes at the end felt quite jarring, which may have been the intended effect but it felt strange watching it and because of that I could never fully absorb into the story.

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A quick twitter search will show that the pervading feeling from the programme was the ‘green murk’, a particular favourite of mine was the comparison to the Olympic Swimming Pool debacle earlier in the year. My own feeling was that it felt like there was a smudge on the screen the whole way through. Not what you want to be thinking when watching something as it is distracting. And it is a shame because these colouring and editing techniques can be really beneficial when used well and can truly help a spectator engage with the mood of the film or programme, but you have to give the spectator room to react to it rather than making it too obvious and if the mise-en-scene is too obvious, it removes the need for a spectator at all.

So what is the deal with this trend of murky art television? I think that with the success of programmes such as Sherlock (2010 -) and Doctor Who (2005 –) who used editing the great success in a way that complimented the pace and plot (think of Sherlock’s mind palace and the use of text and animation) there does seem to be more room for experimental TV, but push it too much and people will either switch over or switch off. It’s a fine line to walk.

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Does experimental art cinema belong only in the cinema? Can art TV work or is it too difficult to view on small screens, in well-lit rooms with patchy resolution? In terms of a ‘Christmas Christie’, I preferred the cinematic qualities of And Then There Were None (2015) in terms of the murky trend, I’m not convinced of its place on television just yet.

The Rocky Horror Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (Ortega, Fox, 2016) – Why has it missed the mark?

The sheer volumes of 1-star reviews for the ‘new’ Rocky Horror Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again is astounding. The highest rating I saw was a four despite Fox’s efforts to pull out all the stops, in this post, I want to consider why this might be and why a new remake of a cult classic will never, ever win.

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Continue reading

ITV’s Victoria: Every Inch a Good TV Series?

Jenna Coleman as Victoria


Victoria (Daisy Goodwin, Rebecca Eaton, ITV, 2016) finished last Sunday with the promise of a second series after a very promising first run. The series which premiered on ITV at 9 o’clock, in direct competition to Poldark genuinely impressed me, and seemed to be competitive in the ratings for the BBC equivalent. This is really the first time in a long time that ITV has given the BBC a run for their money with Period dramas, as they have been the king of the genre ever since Mr Darcy dove into the lake in 1995 (Pride and Prejudice).  When all is said and done, Victoria did actually beat Poldark for ratings, which is, for ITV a major feat.

So after watching the series, here are the major things that stood out to me: Continue reading

Male Nudity in TV Period Dramas – Are we taking it too far?

I read an interview with Tom Hughes in the Sunday Times magazine (link below), in which the interviewer came across as a total witch. She basically said that Hughes refused to reveal anything about his personal life (fair enough to him I say) and that his only appeal was his good looks, marketed through direct competition with Poldark’s Aiden Turner and the ‘sexiness’ of the two battling Period Dramas.

Tom Hughes as Prince Albert in Victoria

I do not deny that he is good looking, but that seems unimaginably rude and, frankly, you couldn’t say that about women without a huge backlash. So why can we say it about male TV stars? Why has it become ok for their bodies to be openly objectified without censure in a way that no longer exists for women’s bodies – trashy mags still talk objectify the female body, but the word ‘trashy’ is key. We censor this kind of talk and assign it to lowbrow journalism, but male nudity seems to exist outside of this realm of the ‘trashy’ and in the normative.

A lake-drenched Mr Darcy – the start of it all?

Male nudity of TV seems to have become a necessary phenomenon for selling television to the ‘yummy mummies’ and watchers of period dramas, ever since Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) dove into the lake in BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (1995). This was a phenomenon at the time, and has progressed excessively since – we never see Mr Darcy’s bare chest but through a glimpse of his wet shirt. Since the enthusiastic response to this scene, male nudity in the Period Drama has become more and more essential to their success. Sexuality has always been a key selling factor of fiction, especially when reimagining period dramas (Bodice Ripper!). But what is new, I think, is the difference in the way we discuss it for men and women.

Poldark (seen below) is the key example for this. The infamous sything scene has sparked many debates on the appropriation of the male body in film and the creation of a female gaze. The latest ‘reports’ say that Aiden Turner (Poldark) has had enough of shirtless scenes – perhaps due to this media obsession. Honestly, who can blame him? He has been objectified constantly, and whilst it has boosted his career, it isn’t the only thing about him. This is where objectifying, both men and women, becomes a problem – we are more than just our skin.

The infamous scythe scene

Perhaps the difference is this: we see men’s chests all the time. Men seem to walk around shirtless at the mildest bit of sunshine. It becomes commonplace and appropriated by the mass – no one cares if you see men’s nipples, right? However, if a woman wears revealing clothes she becomes associated with a stereotype; the result of this is that the female body remains as something that can only be revealed if the woman is willing to bear that stereotype. In Film, to avoid this stereotype the fully nude female body, (crucially, the main signifier of nude: the nipple) belongs to either High Art or Pornography.

The last Hollywood film where the whole breast is bared was Carol (Haynes, 2015) and the whole style of the film, and the content is about high art – it’s not a pornographic lesbian film, it is reinventing the lesbian film into a genuine love story in the style of classic Hollywood. The ‘art film’ style allows for female nudity – an excuse, if you will – what interests me is that male nudity is excluded from these binaries.

So the male body has become the easy way of showing nudity, and of attracting the elusive ‘yummy mummy’ market – but have we crossed the line by implying that male actors are only good for ratings if they are shirtless, as the woman in the Tom Hughes article says. I don’t think this is a fair assessment, nor do I think it is the case, but if this is a common thought does that mean everyone should remain clothed on television or do we just need to change our attitude?

Articles that inspired this post:

http://theconversation.com/why-academics-are-interested-in-the-male-body-in-poldark-and-outlander-42518

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/tom-hughes-the-man-sexing-up-sundays-and-mondays-on-catch-up-x2hnmdhcv