TV/Film to Watch/Sample
In August 2012
(All of which I have on my computer for us to watch – but some of which you may have already seen – not entirely in order of preference.)
Louis Theroux’s no-holes-barred BBC Documentaries: Very anthropological, alternately shocking, entertaining and mind-boggling: generally hour-long episodes where he goes and embeds himself in various weird and controversial social groups – e.g. groups of people who believe in UFOs, the world of American Gansta Rap, Survivalists, White Suprermacists (both in the US and another one in South Africa) , the horrible Westboro Baptist Church, the Klu Klux Clan, the contemporary Thai/Mail-Order bride business….all rather even-handed and objective, neither apologetic nor moralistic about his (generally horrible) subjects. Fascinating but not too disturbing. Episodes shot in the US, UK, South Africa, various other countries…
Grandma’s House: New British comedy about neurotic North London Jewish family. Quite sweet and funny and has the feeling of being slightly improvised/spontaneous. Directed by/starring Simon Amstell (but not just some vehicle for his ego), who is very funny, and who I apparently, according to various friends, vaguely look like and act.
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (the most amazing Fassbiner film from the 1972). A bit arty and experimental, but, because it is possibly my favourite film of all time, we will be watching it, and watching it in its entirety, uninterrupted, with no complaining or protestations or ‘breaks’, at some point this month. The most aesthetically and emotionally beautiful and moving film I’ve ever seen, probably.
Dr Who: The Impossible Planet/Satan Pit (Two-Part Episode): Very scary but oddly kind of fun; Mouse and I are strangely drawn to watching it again even though we were alone in the flat when we first watched it and spent the rest of the night feeling absolutely terrified…although watching it here, I think you/we would probably find it more fun and funny than genuinely terrifying…
The Thick of It (Funny, Fast-paced new British comedy about an inept/incompetent fictional ‘Ministry for Social Affairs and Citizenship’ (DOSAC); lots of very good acting with perhaps the best Brit TV actors there are now. Makes for slightly addictive watching, very naughty, bizarre (but not horrible or disgusting or actually mean-spirited) dark humour. (Although there is rather a lot of gratuitous swearing/obscenities).
Lead Balloon (Fun comedy new-ish BBC comedy about a failing comedian, his American comedy partner, and his very stereotypically upper middle-class Crouch End wife and children). So Crouch End it’s amazing, from the café owners to the décor in people’s houses to the types of neighbours….I think you’d enjoy it.
A Taste of Honey (1960) The Loneliness of a Long-Distance Runner (1962): My favourite of the British ‘New Wave’ films from the , incredibly moving and beautiful; very wonderful and likeable lower class people who attempt to pull themselves out of poverty and enter ‘normal’ society by various routes – sometimes successful, sometimes not. So evocative of the period – both aesthetically, and in the 1960s/70s social/welfare state and the middle-class/intellectual class’s idea of ‘improvement’ and ‘education’ of the working classes. A Taste of Honey was written as a story/novel by Shelagh Delaney when she was only 19, and Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner from the famous Alan Sillitoe story.
The Special Relationship: Funny, right-on, frank docu-drama about the Clintons and the Blairs and their relationship(s), right up to the sudden and regrettable entrance of GWB and the new political configuration that that brought in. Quite fun.
Notes on a Scandal Brilliant film with Judi Dench, set in a London school, slightly shocking but so right-on about social classes and North London sub-genres of people, especially the Islington intellectual-boho social stratum.
Frost/Nixon (If you haven’t already seen it) Recent docu-drama of the famous interview where Nixon starts out as a confident, Great-Leader character, and then suddenly breaks down and reveals (many of) the secrets of what happened with Watergate et al.
Maybe/Probably/Things You Might Have Already Seen
The Iron Lady Meryl Streep’s recent and very well-received biopic about Thatcher’s life (which you’ve probably seen, but which we will watch if you haven’t). Sympathetic, but not sycophantic. A actual manifestation of the overused descriptor ‘tour-de-force’.
The Queen (same as above – you’ve probably seen, but if not we must watch it). Helen Mirren is great, and very (amazingly, for such a subject) objective – neither pro-monarchy, fawning or apologetic, or doing that annoying thing where people try to paint the Queen as really just down-to-earth and decent and ‘just like us’; but at the same time, sympathetic to the Queen as a person/woman, about the difficulty and sadness of her life, her fortitude and genuine kindness, her regrets, her human mistakes….certainly (I think) the best portrayal of the monarchy ever made (and it was never officially endorsed, commented upon, or even acknowledged by Buckingham Palace)
All or Nothing: Mike Leigh’s not particularly well-known 2002 film about a family living on a Council Estate and the people in their universe. Characters are rough, stupid, but not unlikeable. Warm and moving, rather than educational/moralistic/grim. One of my very favourite of his films, and quite funny in an off-the-wall/bizarre sort of way in parts.
Beautiful Thing Film about South London housing estate over the course of a long hot summer; A bit Carson McCullers-esque – like the Member of the Wedding transposed to a lower-class South London housing estate in the early 90s. intriguing and atypical characters including gay teenage protagonist just trying to come out of the closet and his fears and budding relationship with the frightened boy next door; very progressive and prescient for a film of that time, and evocative of that class milieu and era (without being preachy or patronising/socially condescending)
Get Real: School/adolescent/Member-of-the-Wedding type drama that is similar to above, but set in a school and a green, lush Lewes-y area that could be Priory School and Lewes (and maybe even is – although Wikipedia says it was shot in Baskingstoke).
Adaptation: Slightly older Meryl Streep film, a failing scriptwriter stalks a sophisticated New Yorker editor as she becomes strangely and fatally obsessed with a hillbilly in Florida. Bizarre, funny, intriguing, so evocative of and spot-on about American social class and prejudices. You may have already seen it.
The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema A critical re-evaluation of classic films (espec. Hitchcok) done by Slavoj Zizek (the most bizarre, radical, straight-to-the-point, common sense philosopher/cultural critic; in some sense, my main contemporary philosophical hero – for he is totally unique and quite weird and one agrees with almost everything he says). He uses a lot of psychoanalytic theory, but it’s too intentionally silly and wacky to be taken entirely seriously or be un-ironically/un-self-aware pretentious/superior. Not, as the title would suggest, ‘perverted’ in a necessarily dirty/shocking/commercial/sensationalist way.
Borgen: Drama about a woman who becomes the first female Prime Minister of Denmark. The people she faces, her allies and enemies, portraits of typical politicians in Denmark from right-wing to the left-wing (based on specific real people I think) + the developing stories of a few other related protagonists. Interesting (although not entirely unexpected) view of Danish society. Gripping, dramatic, and fun. A bit like Spooks. Also interesting for the aesthetics of everything, the interiors of people’s houses – Stylish, modernist, both appealing and less appealing Danish design everywhere in the background.
Sweet Sixteen: Ken Loach’s docu-drama about poverty and despair and social deprivation in Scotland. The story of a boy growing up, his plans, ambitions, and how they are foiled. Depressing but also intriguing and somehow quite beautiful and important.
Consequences of Love (Film, set in a hotel for the very wealthy in a hygienic, dull, horrible Swiss town that is based around extreme wealth and money and banks and foreigners coming there to launder money). Beautiful aesthetics and music and exciting action and mafia storyline…).
Dead Boss: New British comedy/murder mystery/prison drama (TV series). Fun, silly, with a lot of cameo appearances by famous Brit actors that we know and like.
A Single Man Docu-drama about part of Isherwood’s life after coming to America. Made in 2009 but set in mid-century California and very very aesthetically evocative (I imagine) of Californian life in the 1950/60s/70s.
La Notte and/or L’Aventurra – My favourite Antonioni film, but I can’t remember which one of these two it is. But have both. Both set in Italy, harsh but aesthetically beautiful critique of the monied classes and/or women who try to escape repressive lives. (I think – I haven’t seen them in quite a while). Both are quite good to watch anyway.
The Trial of Tony Blair: A ‘what-if’ historical drama that imagines Tony Blair being tried and convicted of war crimes and deported to the Hague. The actor who plays him is very good (although not particularly physically convincing as Tony Blair); it’s not heavy-handed or moralistic, more just intriguing and entertaining.
+ Many more things that I can’t think of right now….