My culture fix – Inspired by The Times

My favourite author or book
Simon James Green writes great gay YA novels that I lap up.
Beauty Sleep is a recent favourite along with Red White and Royal Blue.

The book I’m reading

Any Way The Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell. The third in the trilogy and it has recently come out. My edition has a great pink flowered edge. Lovely. I am lapping up the book but it is over 500 pages. Excited for the conclusion of beloved characters.

The book I wish I had written
Solitaire by Alice Oseman. The feelings and emotions of the main character spoke to me in such a way that it could have come from my own brain. I wish I had the talents to produce something as intimate and eviscerating.

The book I couldn’t finish
Dracula. Studied at school but I never made it past chapter 1. Thank goodness for the Internet.

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read

To Kill A Mockingbird or Normal People. Both culturally significant and talked about. I did see the show of Normal People.

My favourite film
The Day After Tomorrow
An unusual favourite but shows my love for New York City and natural disaster films. I love the way people band together under extraordinary circumstances. I get a rush when this happens so chase the feeling on film and in life. I felt a thrill every time the fire alarm went off at university in the middle of the night or waiting for a teacher to turn up to a lesson. I am forever seeking this feeling.

My favourite play
I am more of a musical gal but I did enjoy the National Theatre Live production of Fleabag. I saw at the cinema and I can see why Phoebe Waller-Bridge launched her career off this one-woman show.

The box set I’m hooked on
Elité was a recent binge. I have a new thing for foreign language Netflix shows. I am also currently watching Modern Family and The Bold Type.

My favourite TV series
I loved The Wilds on Amazon Prime. I find myself drifting back to The Office along with Lost and Brooklyn 99.

My favourite piece of music
Sour by Olivia Rodrigo has been the only music on my radar lately. In particular brutal and jealousy, jealousy convey deep emotions. Such strong lyrics for someone so young.

The last film that made me cry
Black Widow. The thrill of seeing it in the cinema in London on a massive screen with some dear friends moved me to tears. The culmination of female superheroes and the journey for equality along with the resurrection of Natasha Romanoff. Albeit in a flashback.

The lyric I’d wish I’d written
Who I am if not exploited – brutal
I lost my mind, I spent the night, crying on the floor of my bathroom. You’re so unaffected I really don’t get it. – good 4 u.

Both from Sour and both speak to me.

The instrument I play
Piano and previously violin.

The instrument I wish I’d learnt
Guitar. Always looks so cool and sexy whenever someone can rock a song on the guitar. Think John Lennon or Brian May.

If I could own one painting
Anything by Mondrian or Jack Vettriano for my mum as he is her favourite artist.

The place I feel happiest
With my parents in their apartment. Especially in summer.

The movie I’m looking forward to
Dune with Timothée Chalamet. I would watch him do anything.

I wasted an evening watching…
The Euros final with England and Italy. Only the third football match I had ever seen and I watched it in case we won. Felt like a let down after the football did not come home as was promised.

The film I walked out on
I’ve never left the cinema but I did want to when seeing The House that Jack Built at Cannes 2018. Very disturbing by Lars Von Trier.

My guiltiest cultural pleasure
Queer as Folk US. An old show from 2000 but it got me through feeling under the weather earlier this year and inspired a collection of blog posts. It does have questionable ethics and depictions of the gay community but I love the characters and the plots so much.

Overrated
Love Island.

Underrated
The Wilds on Amazon. How is everyone not talking about this show?

TV Shows I’ve been watching this month

Hello readers,

As lockdown is easing gradually in the UK and life hopefully will be returning to its pre-pandemic state, cinemas will be opening and production will increase. However, we are not quite there yet and this month I have been mainly watching television programmes that I find comfort in and sticking to old favourites. With real life becoming more exciting soon, maybe my watching habits will as well. The five shows I am going to write about in this post are all ones that have been in my life in some form for a while. For example while WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are new shows they are a continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the 23 films that culminated in Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Both of these shows pick up after Endgame and focus on some heroes who have not had their own films.

Shameless US – Netflix

I first became aware of this show around a year ago through a friend. I was introduced through the characters of Ian and Mickey and their ground-breaking relationship. For me they have been a great example of a romance that is not conventional or stereotypically confined by their sexuality. The show as a whole is set in Southside Chicago where every character has to fight for survival.

Shameless centres around the Gallagher family, the same as the UK version which this version is based upon but that is where the similarities stop plot wise. The family is headed by eldest sister, Fiona who is 21 in the first season. She has been raising her siblings since she was young and officially since she was 16 and her mother ran off from the family for good. Next is Lip, short for Philip, the smartest in the family with a high IQ who is 16 in season 1. Then there is Ian who is gay and has set his sights on the military by attending a junior cadet programme. He is 15 in season 1. After Ian comes Debbie, she is determined and is the only one of the Gallagher clan to still love her father. After her is Carl, a reckless kid with his heart in the right place. The youngest Gallagher is Liam, who is a baby in season one and somehow black with two white parents. Frank Gallagher is their father who is more interested in money, drugs and creating social change than his kids.

The show follows their lives and all the ups and downs. Other main characters are Kevin and Veronica who live near the Gallaghers and have formed a close bond with Fiona. Kevin works at the Alibi, the local bar and V works as a nurse at a care home. Other notable characters from season one are Karen and Sheila Jackson who become involved with the Gallaghers and Mickey and Mandy Milkovich. Mandy is Ian’s best friend and he meets Mickey through her.

I am up to Season 8 of the show but all together there are 11 seasons with the final season (11) being shown on television currently. Only 9 are on Netflix but hopefully the newer ones will be added soon. While this show is definitely for adults with lots of swearing, nudity and drugs; there is a lot of heart and every character goes through an amazing journey with hardships and successes.

WandaVision

The first venture for Marvel into television form with Kevin Feige helming the shows. WandaVision follows the story after Endgame as mentioned above. We are introduced to a new agency, S.W.O.R.D who have taken over from S.H.I.E.L.D as the governing body associated with superheroes and the Avengers. A phenomenon occurs when the town of Westview is trapped in a forcefield that no-one can penetrate. At the centre is Wanda Maximoff living as a 1950s housewife with her husband, Vision, who fans will know perished in Infinity War at the hands of Thanos.

Wanda’s life is now in black and white with a cast of friends and co-workers and a laugh track. As her life moves through the decades into the 1960s, 70s and 80s; we learn why Wanda is living out sitcoms from different decades.

What makes this show unique is that WandaVision completely inhabits the techniques and styles of every television decade including the special effects and props of the time. This show is a continuation of Wanda and Vision’s story in the Marvel Universe and we learn more about Wanda’s life pre-Avenger but it is also an homage to the great American sitcoms of the last 70 years.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

This show is also in the Marvel Universe but unlike WandaVision, it is more similar to the Marvel spectacles we are used to from the MCU. The show is being released weekly and only two episodes have been streamed so far but the story is beginning to take shape.

In the show, we see Sam Wilson or ‘Falcon’ and Bucky Barnes or ‘The Winter Soldier’ in the months after Endgame where the world is trying to adjust to half the population suddenly appearing again. Sam is still working for the government as a contractor with his Falcon technology and Bucky has gone down a more solitary path. He lives alone in New York as a newly pardoned contract killer. Apart from his therapy sessions and missions to make his past wrongs right, he doesn’t have much to do with the Avengers.

A new threat appears in the form of Karli Morgenthau and her crew. They are dedicated to making the world how it was before everyone came back. Terror attacks have been threatening the population around the globe so Sam persuades Bucky to team up once again. What really convinces him is the debut of a new Captain America. John Walker is as close to a super soldier as he can be, without the serum but Sam who gave up the shield, definitely does not approve.

Bucky is still attached to his life long friend, Steve Rogers and together Sam and Bucky get back into the action. So far we have had an episode on a back story for both Sam’s family in New Orleans and more of Bucky’s past and a second with some action scenes between the pair. One delight of the series to audiences is the comedy between them. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have had great comic chemistry since their interviews together for Captain America: The Winter Soldier back in 2014 and this series has amped up their natural back and forth to their on screen characters. A particular favourite scene is when Sam and Bucky are made to go through couple’s therapy with Bucky’s therapist.

Another element that I applaud Marvel for showing is race inequality. Sam as a black man gave up the Captain America mantle but then it was given to another white man. There is also a very pivotal scene where Bucky tries talking to another super soldier who was given the serum like him. This man was treated differently to Bucky however as he is black. After this revealing conversation, Sam is questioned by a passing policeman for arguing with Bucky and until Bucky tells the officer that Sam is an Avenger and a hero, Sam faces arrest.

Love, Victor

This show has been out for a while but I am watching it weekly on Disney Plus. It is based on the film Love, Simon that debuted in 2018 which is based on a book by Becky Albertalli. I loved the film of Love, Simon and the representation and awareness it brought to young adult audiences from a major studio. Love, Victor is in the same universe as Love, Simon but picks up the story from another point of view. Victor Salazar has just moved to Creekwood, Atlanta with his family and starts at the school where Simon went. He has some trouble adjusting to a more open and accepting society and trying to work out his own feelings so he messages Simon online for advice. This starts a dialogue between the two which is presented as a voice over from the original actor, Nick Robinson.

While Simon’s story was not easy, he was from a liberal white background whereas Victor’s family are Latino and religious. They also are not as open as Victor would hope so he has trouble even processing his feelings, let alone telling his family. He starts dating a fellow student, Mia and gets along well with her but he has an attraction to his co-worker, Benji who is openly gay and has a boyfriend.

I thought this show was a good twist on the point of view that studios normally show of a supportive and accepting family. Victor’s family is very close but he still fears their reaction. I am up to Episode 7 out of 10 and Season 2 is already confirmed so I will see how Victor’s story plays out.

Taskmaster

This show is one of my favourite game shows on TV as the format is never boring and all the contestants are comedians that I like. The aim of the game is to complete the tasks and then be judged by the Taskmaster to receive a maximum of five points. The winner of each episode gets to take home all the prize tasks. The show is currently on Series 11 and has had two episodes aired.

This series the contestants are Lee Mack, Jamali Maddox, Sarah Kendall, Mike Wozniak and Charlotte Ritchie. Each contestant pre-records their tasks with the help of Alex Horne, the Taskmaster’s Assistant at the Taskmaster house or sometimes on location around the area. The tasks can be creative, fun, tricky, challenging and really put people to the test. Many people complete the tasks in a unique and funny way which makes for great entertainment. The other entertaining part is watching the Taskmaster’s reaction in the studio and see the contestants plead their case for points.

This show does not need to be seen in order and I would recommend starting from series 4 or 5 as that is when the show really hits its stride.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

My Thoughts on Christmas TV shows

The show centres around Johanne, a 30-year-old nurse. She attends her family’s annual December 1st celebrations and when receiving many questions about her love life and lack of boyfriend, Johanne invents a boyfriend and has until Christmas Eve to find one. I think this premise works really well in Norway as December 1st is not a traditional family gathering in the UK or US so there would have to be another reason for the family to get together.

Hello readers,

It has been a strange and stressful year for most of us and I have not been watching as many Christmas films as of late but I have been watching and re-watching some Christmas TV shows. Before Christmas 2019, I did not think that television shows dedicated to Christmas were a genre but they have been popping up on Netflix and I have been watching. It’s a great way to get a short half-hour burst of festive content without dedicating 90 minutes or more to a film.

Merry Happy Whatever (2019)

This was the first and only series I saw in 2019 and kicked off the genre on Netflix for me. If you’re looking to watch something comforting and family-orientated, then Merry Happy Whatever should definitely be on your bucket list. It centres around the Quinn family and their family celebrations over the Christmas period. The main focus of the clan is Emmy who is the only sibling to have moved away from under her father’s thumb. She is also the youngest and this year is bringing her boyfriend, Matt to Christmas in Philadelphia from their home in Los Angeles. While there are some ups and downs during the get together, nothing terrible happens so this is also suitable for kids, especially those with short attention spans as every episode comes in around the 30 minute mark.

The show does have some Disney Channel vibes as there is no swearing or violence and although the dialogue is a little cheesy I think the show has real heart; a great diverse cast showing how American families truly are. Each of the siblings go on their own journey through the show and Emmy (played by Bridgit Mendler, a Disney Channel alum) gets to see that her family aren’t as picture perfect as she once thought and her father sees that he should not try and control his adult kids.

There are a couple of other familiar faces including another Disney alum, Ashley Tisdale and Dennis Quaid as Don Quinn, the patriarch of the family. It’s a nice change of pace to see a show set in a lesser shown city in America but you don’t get to see much of Philadelphia as the show is all shot on a stage or using only half a room to create the impression that it is all staged. Think of other US comedies like Friends or How I Met Your Mother and you get the idea.

Overall, I think the show did a great job at being one of the first shows to focus solely on Christmas and you never get caught up around the festivities too much as there are so many other plotlines that the holiday is more of a backdrop with an excuse for activities and the family gathering together. I watched this show last year and then again this year. It’s an easy watch and all of the actors make you feel relaxed and at home with just enough Christmas spirit.

Home for Christmas (2019-)

This show actually premiered in 2019 but I didn’t notice it until this year. With a second season dropping this December, Netflix must have been promoting it more. This show is a Norwegian original, set in Oslo, although this is never explicitly stated. I watched with subtitles as I’m sure most people will but it didn’t distract me from the humour or heart of the show. There are some genuinely laugh out loud moments in both series of the show along with romance and joy.

The show centres around Johanne, a 30-year-old nurse. She attends her family’s annual December 1st celebrations and when receiving many questions about her love life and lack of boyfriend, Johanne invents a boyfriend and has until Christmas Eve to find one. I think this premise works really well in Norway as December 1st is not a traditional family gathering in the UK or US so there would have to be another reason for the family to get together.

Johanne with the help of her friends and roommate starts actively looking for a boyfriend and has a few adventures along the way. She tries speed dating, online dating, dating older and younger men with a mix of results and in between finds time to celebrate December with her friends, family and colleagues. Every episode shows a few days in December leading up to Christmas Eve and Johanne’s big reveal. The setting of a snow-covered high street with lots of Christmas village-esque shops creates the perfect Christmas setting. By watching the show, you learn a lot about Scandi or Norwegian traditions and rituals and you get to see a lot of the city with the various dates Johanne goes on.

I won’t give away the ending but in the second season, it is a year later and Johanne is hosting Christmas this year and still looking for a boyfriend or possibly her true love. There are a lot of characters to balance in the show but I think it does it well. There could be a little more diversity in terms of LGBT characters but there are a couple in there. Norwegian is such a lovely language and I definitely picked up a few phrases while reading the subtitles. I used to not like foreign shows or films as much as I struggled to keep up with the subtitles but having watched more and with many foreign films gaining better international recognition, I have become more familiar with subtitles.

I don’t personally recognise any of the actors but having looked at their profiles on IMDb, there are some actors that have been in a lot of projects even some English-speaking ones. The cast is great with the actress playing Johanne as a stand-out. She is able to navigate all her relationships and emotions perfectly and you can always tell what she is thinking by a look or gesture. I watched the first series at the start of December and then the second shortly after it came out. Both series were really strong and having most of the characters come back again helped to unite the story from one year to the next.

Dash & Lily (2020)

The only new Christmas show on Netflix this year is based on a book by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn who have also had their two other joint works made into films. I think this story needed to be a television show as there is a lot to show and the nature of a back and forth works well in this format.

Dash and Lily are both teenagers in New York City at Christmas time and they are both alone. Dash by choice and Lily by circumstance. Dash is a cynic and the Grinch of the pair whereas Lily loves Christmas and takes every chance to celebrate. The story starts with Dash finding a mysterious notebook in his favourite second-hand book store and follows the dares inside. He begins a back and forth between himself and Lily who started the book. They trade dares and secrets about each other and gradually come out of their shells. Lily is shy and never ventures far out of her comfort zone or area in New York and Dash believes that joy is dead after his girlfriend left town and his parents divorced. He tells them both he is with the other and plans to spend the holidays alone at his dad’s apartment.

Dash and Lily are each helped in the dares by their friends or family and they both gradually become more well-rounded people. Setting the story in New York City at Christmas creates many opportunities to show the hidden places in the city as well as many iconic locations such as Macy’s, Grand Central Station and Central Park. There are many spots that are not normally used in New York for filming so it is not just the same scenery you have seen a thousand times. There are a lot of emotions in the show with humour and festive cheer included as well as darker emotions. The show is certainly not shielding any realities but there is not any real threats or bad language so suitable for a family watch with older kids.

One of the best parts of the story is showing New York how it really is in terms of its residents and realities. The cast felt naturally diverse as New York has many different people living there with a secondary character having a gay relationship that was relevant and real. David Leviathan has written many books starring gay characters so I would expect nothing less and I am glad it translated over to the screen.

This show will help bring out your festive cheer and show you that there’s more to life than your neighbourhood.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

My Theories and Musings on Season 4 of 13 Reasons Why

One of Clay’s traits is that he needs to be needed. He feels pushed out a little at the beginning of the season with his parents and Justin. He needs to feel wanted and when his parents shine a little more light on Justin, he feels a little left out. When Tyler calls Clay, he feels needed again. Ever since the tapes, there have been reasons for Clay to be needed for multiple people but after Monty’s death, there was no new crisis until Clay subconsciously created one. Clay needs all his friends focuses together on one thing in their senior year.

Hello readers,

This post is about my theories and musings of the characters and events of the fourth series of 13 Reasons Why. I enjoyed this season very much and of course, many spoilers below.

The title of the series is still relevant as even though the 13 Reasons are not all there, the tapes brought them together and created the group for the season. Many of the incidents of season 4 would not have happened if not for Hannah’s tapes. A great full circle moment: the characters, along with Ryan and Courtney, burying the tapes in the hills overlooking Evergreen.

The catalyst of the season is the graffiti of “Monty was Framed” across the administration’s office. I thought that Clay would have been doing it as his guilt was subconsciously coming out and he wanted all his secrets to be out in the open. I thought sleepwalking but the truth of blacking out is more serious than I predicted. I had thoughts that Clay may submit his guilt essay about covering up a murder by accident, but I’m glad that Ani saved him by changing it.

One of Clay’s traits is that he needs to be needed. He feels pushed out a little at the beginning of the season with his parents and Justin. He needs to feel wanted and when his parents shine a little more light on Justin, he feels a little left out. When Tyler calls Clay, he feels needed again. Ever since the tapes, there have been reasons for Clay to be needed for multiple people but after Monty’s death, there was no new crisis until Clay subconsciously created one. Clay needs all his friends focuses together on one thing in their senior year.

Clay is a truly good person as his interactions with Monty and Bryce’s ghosts show. Some may see this as the show trying to humanise rapists or criminals but I see this as showing that no person is one dimensional. These people are still just kids and there are many layers to their actions/ crimes. Everyone has deep issues within themselves. For example, Bryce felt neglected by his father and sometimes his mother so wanted control over girls. He was in a position of power within the school because of his money and being on the football team so he thought many women genuinely wanted to be with him. Then this turned into sexual abuse which is never okay, no matter your history. Many characters such as Tony, Ani and Justin have suffered similar neglect or distancing from their families but have never turned into the person Bryce becomes.

A big part of the show is how Clay related to all the characters and ties them together. Clay feels immense pressure as he has to keep everyone’s secrets. I wonder how fast they would all fall apart if Clay wasn’t there. Ani was the other glue and after she becomes and absent player in this season, Clay starts to fall apart as well as all of the others. Without the glue of Clay and Ani the whole situation falls apart. Another reason for Ani’s absence this season.

As with Monty, he has such a deep disliking of his sexual preferences that stems from his father’s homophobia and possibly a result of his Latino heritage. Again we can compare this with Tony who has the same heritage but his family is loving and supportive and he has had several gay relationships in the four seasons of the show and even lives with his boyfriend in seasons 3 and 4. Monty has internalised homophobia and violent tendencies as his fight with Alex showed. Even when he met Winston as the Hillcrest party, he was unable to enjoy his first time interacting with a guy in that way and had to become violent.

Clay’s reaction to Diego’s prank of the mannequin on the football field showed how Clay may be losing his mind but still has his humanity. Many people would shun and hate Monty and Bryce for this pain and crimes they inflicted on Clay’s friends but Clay still sees them as humans even though they are dead. He saw Monty bleeding and still tried to help him and cried over him. I don’t think any other character in the show has the strong compassion that Clay has. He is one of the only characters to hallucinate the ghosts of Monty and Bryce, and he feels so much guilt even though he had no direct connections to their deaths or crimes. He was never a victim but he absorbed everyone’s pain and carried around their guilt. I believe that if Clay had been on the docks when Bryce was injured he would have helped him and not behaved as Alex did. Although, who knows?

Clay’s psychological issues are the most prevalent this season with his violent outbursts, black outs and hallucinations. This is partially because the series is from his POV but also because of his mental health conditions of anxiety and depression that he admits to in his graduation speech. Clay’s relationship with Ani is something that helps to show Clay’s destruction. He uses Ani as a shield and I think only really dates her as she knows his secrets and is in their group. Not many of the group date outside it apart from Tyler, Zach and Tony. Ani not being present for Clay’s biggest breakdowns was a good narrative direction as he has no crutch to lean on or to get him of these situations.

At the beginning, Justin tells Jessica that he doesn’t want to date her as he is still recovering from his drug addiction. Jessica is not happy with this and becomes jealous when he flirts with the college tor guide. She just wants to be happy with Justin, she doesn’t see how much he needs to be alone as he has never needed that before in their relationship. A part of Justin’s healing process is going to AA meetings for drug addiction. When he sees his football coach there it gives him a boost of empathy.

His past catches up with him after reuniting with Jess and getting into college. His death is the main revelation of this season: the season 1 is Hannah; season 2 is Monty and Tyler. Season 3 is Monty’s death and season 4 is Justin’s. There are five meaningful deaths across the four seasons: Hannah, from suicide after the 13 reasons that are people; Jeff from a car crash caused by the stop sign hit by Sheri and Hannah; Bryce after being attacked by Zach and then pushed in the water by Alex while Jess watched on; Monty is jail after he is labelled a child rapist and Justin from HIV that turns into AIDs after being left untreated. Justin’s death could have been preventable if the HIV was caught earlier which makes it all the more sad. His history of sharing needles for drug use and having sex with men for money while he was homeless is the reason for the HIV. These things could have been avoided if Justin has received better support from his friends such as Bryce who instead lent him money for drugs. Clay became like a brother for Justin after helping him get off drugs. The end scenes in the hospital between Clay and Justin and when Clay reads Justin’s college essay shows how far they have grown as adopted brothers.

Justin’s funeral was used as a catalyst at the very start of the first episode which leaves you guessing who the funeral is for. I guessed Justin or Alex after Alex and Charlie got together. We see Charlie speaking at the funeral in episode two. I guessed Justin or Alex as the death as Charlie is not very close to many of the characters. He would speak at Justin’s as they are on the football team and he is the only true ally left from the team apart from the coach. Zach is absent from the team this year after his knee injury; Diego is Justin’s nemesis in the hand of Jessica and Bryce/Monty are dead. The other minor characters are not close to Justin. I think this was a very good narrative device to give the audience clues about a potential death.

Alex starts out figuring out his sexuality with Winston as he is a new student and doesn’t know his past with suicide and his other secrets. Alex tells him anyway as he feels the need to be honest with potential romantic partners. That is why he then breaks up with Winston on the senior trip as when he finds out that Winston was with Monty, he could not trust himself to keep his secret from Winston and feels guilty for dating him. He claims that he was hurt that Winston was with Monty, a criminal but ultimately he is trying to protect everyone because he knows the guilt will build and he will spill his secrets Alex pushed Bryce into the water, eventually killing him not because he is a violent person but because he felt the pain of Hannah and Jessica so closely. They used to be a group of three and there is a reason that Alex tried to kill himself at the end of season 1.

Charlie had a smaller role in the previous season but becomes a bigger role in this season after his involvement in the Monty secret. He puts himself in harm’s way to help people he barely knows keep this secret. After knowing how Monty has behaved, he does not hesitate to help the gang to frame Monty. He has become a permanent addition to the group. After Diego tells Jess that Charlie is gay/bi, I was waiting for Charlie to have a love interest. No line is ever said for no reason. Charlie is a better boyfriend for Alex as he googles Alex’s condition to help him, gives him cookies and helps him through his panic attacks in the shooting drill. Charlie is quite a shy character but becomes a pivotal part of the gang after getting together with Alex. I think he has had a crush on Alex for some time but was waiting to see if Alex reciprocated his feelings. Charlie seeks out Alex at the party and at the senior camping trip. I loved that Alex went to prom with Charlie and had Clay as a buffer. Winning Prom King and Queen with Charlie really helped Alex to confirm his sexuality.

Winston is determined to find out who really killed Bryce to prove Monty’s innocence so he leaves Hillcrest on purpose to scope out the Liberty kids. After befriending Tyler and Alex for this purpose, Winston accidentally falls for Alex. Winston then starts scoping out the Liberty gang one by one. During the potential school shooting, Winston and Zach are trapped together. Winston buys Zach’s trust with some drugs and after confessing, gets a truth from Zach about the night of Bryce’s death. He teams up with Diego to scare Clay. He suspects Justin then Jessica.

Winston has a small redemption arc when he apologises to Alex after but do we believe him? At first, I liked Winston and Alex together because of my inclination towards gay relationships. Although after reflection, Winston was very dismissive of Alex’s condition and all he had been through. This is in stark contrast to how his boyfriend, Charlie behaves before they have even got together. Winston also talks himself into thinking he’s in love with Monty even though they only hooked up twice. In the prom scene, Winston gets a good talking down from Monty’s ghost. This is a positive towards the character of Monty but as Monty is dead, this is just Winston’s feelings coming out. After finding out everything about Monty, he knows that he would never be allowed to love Monty as he would want. This is proved by Monty beating up Winston after they hooked up.

Zach becomes very self-destructive this season with drinking and having sex with random girls. He feels guilty about almost killing Bryce and then dating his ex-girlfriend, Chloe. Zach also has extra guilt about Hannah and how he treated her. Zach is someone who Alex tries to kiss when realising his sexuality but gently lets him down. A big emotional moment for Zach is when Justin is dying in the hospital and Zach cannot face him. The hospital is where his father died only a few years before and he has bad memories associated with it. Charlie then talks to Zach as his mother also died in that hospital. This shows another reason for his self-destructive behaviour this season. His scene with Alex on the boat and saving Alex from drowning creates a redemptive story for Zach.

Jessica begins the season by trying to deal with her rejection from Justin by dating Diego his antagonist. She thinks that this will make Justin jealous and want her back. She acts a little childish is this aspect of her. Before Justin’s illness is revealed Jessica is playing games with Justin. She is also haunted by the ghost of Bryce as Clay is too. Attention less focused on her this series but her friendship with Ani goes though some patches. After Ani moves in with her, it creates a new dynamic between them. Jessica’s main focus is her campaign against sexual abuse and towards equality. This is very relevant today.

New Television Shows I have been watching in Quarantine

The premise is fairly straight forward as the current POTUS has announced plans for a Space Force in the US but that’s where reality stops. Some of the situations, the characters find themselves are hysterical yet almost believable. Mark is played by Steve Carell the co-creator of the show and he has some brilliant co-stars. John Malkovich plays his number two, scientist Dr. Mallory, Lisa Kudrow is his incarcerated wife, Diana Silvers is his teenage daughter Erin. There are many other comedy actors involved as well as some I haven’t seen do comedy or anything else.

Hello readers,

It has been a while since I’ve made a blog post. With the lockdown and everything, cinemas have been shut and I have not been watching many new films apart from on streaming services. I have however been enjoying some new television shows and I am finally getting around to reviewing a few.

Outer Banks

Quick Synopsis: Set on the island of Outer Banks, North Carolina; a group of teenagers set out to solve a mystery that spans all social classes on their island. The adventure starts after John B, discovers his missing father’s compass on a sunken boat. Is the mystery linked to the story of the 400 million in British gold somewhere off the coast of Outer Banks?

I love this show and watched all ten episodes in the course of two days. It starts as a kind of Goonies/Stranger Things show without the supernatural elements. As the show progresses, it becomes more intense and like a cat mouse chase mixed with murder and danger. The hunt for the truth and kids turned criminals is what carries the drama of the show. Most of the stars are new to the acting world but do a great job playing either a Pogue or a Kook. 10/10.

Space Force

Quick Synopsis: General Mark Naird, a member of the Air Force in America is tasked with setting up a new section of the Armed Forces: Space Force. The show fast forwards a year when things are up and running in Colorado. Things have changed for Mark. His wife is now in prison nearby, his daughter is struggling to make friends and he is facing new challenges obeying POTUS.

This show only released a couple of days ago but I think it’s one of the funniest new shows I’ve seen in a while. The premise is fairly straightforward as the current POTUS has announced plans for a Space Force in the US but that’s where reality stops. Some of the situations the characters find themselves in are hysterical yet almost believable. Mark is played by Steve Carell, the co-creator of the show and he has some brilliant co-stars. John Malkovich plays his number two, scientist Dr. Mallory; Lisa Kudrow is his incarcerated wife; Diana Silvers is his teenage daughter, Erin. There are many other comedy actors involved as well as some I haven’t seen do comedy or anything else. Many of the jokes either have an episode-long duration or are simple throw away lines. They do not rely on quick laughs but rather use their big budget to create this world that happens to be funny. The Space Force base is really amazing and the show itself is very progressive with lead astronaut, Captain Ali being a black female and head scientist, Dr. Chang being Asian. I would say the show reminds me slightly of The Office just a more politically correct and socially aware version. I would highly recommend to comedy or space fans. 9/10.

Locke & Key

Quick Synopsis: After their father dies, the Locke family move to his childhood home in the small town of Matheson. The siblings, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode slowly discover various Keys hidden around Key House and a bigger mystery begins to unveil itself.

I came to this show later than when it first came out but I am really glad I did as I thought it was well crafted and the young cast that lead the show did a great job. There was a lot of characters and smaller sub plots but I thought everything was fleshed out really well. The locations were great, especially some of the places you visit via the Keys. I liked how elements of the past came back into the present of the show. A Season 2 has been announced and I am looking forward to it being produced when possible. 8/10.

Hollywood

Quick Synopsis: Set in the world of a post-WWII Hollywood, a group of creatives set about making social change with their film. Actors, actresses, producers, directors, writers and others all come together to create a picture more progressive than the film industry has seen before. Hollywood shows how the world could have been if attitudes were different.

I also started this show later than everyone else as I wanted to reduce my continue watching section of Netflix before it got too cluttered. As a film student, this show was always going to appeal, being set in Hollywood but I really enjoyed it and I think non-film people would too. It was amazing to see how society could have been if social change occurred 60 years ago. In the show, the creatives want to produce a film with a female black lead, written by a black writer and directed by a half-Asian director. They are met with many challenges but ultimately it exists which never happened in the 50s. The production design was amazing, as well as the cars, shops, clothing and film sets. The show was created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan who have made shows such as Pose and Glee. There were a few of Murphy’s favourites including Darren Criss, David Corenswet, Dylan McDermott, Patti LuPone mixed with some newcomers and experienced actors. I think this limited series would do well with a second series but concludes nicely. 9/10.

Never Have I Ever

Quick Synopsis: Devi, an Indian teen living in California has had a hard time lately. Her dad dropped dead at her school concert then she was paralysed but starting the new school year as a sophomore should be better. Along with her two best friends, Eleanor and Fabiola, Devi juggles family expectations, boy drama, friend drama and therapy. Her life is narrated by tennis player, John McEnroe.

I thought this teen comedy show was really funny with a touch more darkness than usual. It covered a lot of tough topics but kept the audience rooting for Devi and her friends. There was a great diverse cast and as the creator, Mindy Kaling is also Indian, all the Indian traditions and culture seemed very accurate. Devi’s life being narrated by an old white guy could have gone two ways but it added a quirk to what could be just another teen show. Devi has a strong spirit but made a lot of mistakes that I think many could relate too. She ended up in a lot of funny situations . All the main characters were well fleshed out with their own lives away from the main character and I learned a lot about Indian culture. A little more out there than a show made for teenagers. 8/10.

I Am Not Okay With This

Quick Synopsis: Sydney, a teenager in a small town is not part of the the popular crowd. When she makes a new friend in Dina, she hopes that life is turning around until telekinetic powers start. She is trying to replace her late father as a second parent to her younger brother and fending off the admiration of neighbour Stanley.

This show is based on a graphic novel by the same people who did ‘The End of the F***ing World’ and has similar vibes although in America. I thought all the emotions that Syd goes through were very powerful, given that when she feels angry, her powers manifest. The set isn’t as flashy but still helps to create the world. A lot of the props and the costumes give vintage vibes including Stanley’s car and his blue suit. This show has a slow build but an explosive ending. 7/10.

The Stranger

Quick Synopsis: People in an English city all become connected by a stranger who knows all their secrets. Different plot lines all begin to converge as the mystery and identity of ‘The Stranger’ becomes clearer. Weaving throughout is Adam’s need to find his missing wife, Corinne. She is at the centre of this mystery and her son leads a plot line amongst the teenagers.

Another great story from the mind of Harlan Coben who was responsible for another Netflix drama, Safe. There is a plot with adults but also with school kids so I think it adds a great blend. There’s a big cast but everyone gets a chance to show their story. You don’t often see teenage and adult drama mixed together like this which is the unique factor at play in this show. It was highly talked about and remains one of the best drama series I have seen. 10/10.

There are some great shows to come and some I am keen to start include Normal People, Snowpiercer, White Lines and Noughts and Crosses.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

The Politician: A Deep Analysis into the Success and Attraction of this Netflix TV show

One element that ties all of these shows together is that they include characters of many genders, races, sexualities and abilities. As the world has moved forward with growing acceptance of people that are different to the norm, The Politician has made “a liberal, very social, somewhat Utopian world” to quote Ben Platt on the Today Show. No one is rigidly one sexuality or another; gender is not an explicit storyline and no one is bullied for what they are.

Hello readers,

Something that I have never done before, this post is an analysis of just one show but discussing many different elements in more depth than I normally do. I have chosen The Politician as my show to explore as I love all the aspects and I have been watching many cast interviews about how the show was made. I will be including spoilers in this analysis so if you have not seen the Politician turn back now.

The Politician debuted on Netflix on 27th September 2019 and was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. This threesome have made other successful shows together and apart such as Glee (2009-2015); American Horror Story (2011-) Scream Queens (2015-2017); American Crime Story (2016-); Feud (2017-); 9-1-1 (2018-) and Pose (2018-).

One element that ties all of these shows together is that they include characters of many genders, races, sexualities and abilities. As the world has moved forward with growing acceptance of people that are different to the norm, The Politician has made “a liberal, very social, somewhat Utopian world” to quote Ben Platt on the Today Show. No one is rigidly one sexuality or another; gender is not an explicit storyline and no one is bullied for what they are. It’s how most people wish the world could be but the creators show that it’s not perfect. People who are lesser abled are ‘used’ for their disability and the school where the action takes place does not have as much variety in race, for example there is just one Asian student. Deceit and cruelty is still very much around and is perhaps even more alive than in your average American high school.

Synopsis

The show focuses around Payton and his mission to become the Class President of his senior year. He believes that this position will help him to become the President of the United States. He has been carefully tailoring his life with choice of activities and classes and friends to get to this level. He is the Politician. We meet him when he’s at a bit of crossroads. He wants to get into Harvard but only has a conditional offer. He is told he can bribe the university as his family are very wealthy but he wants to get in on merit. In the first episode we see River go against Payton in a debate and reveal a suicide attempt from a year before. River and Payton are friendly and despite dating Astrid, River kisses Payton and gets him to be vulnerable. There is also a threesome mentioned between Payton, Astrid and River but their relationship isn’t really explored.

After River announces his running mate as Skye, who is probably the most diverse student at San Sebastian being black and gay; Payton’s team, McAfee and James tell Payton to get someone more diverse as his running mate. He asks one guy with cerebral palsy but he sees through Payton’s intentions. Infinity Jackson, a naive girl with cancer who acts childish, agrees after Payton promises her grandma to buy them tickets for a Disney cruise. Politics ensue and after River’s tragic suicide that is off-screen but Payton witnessed; Astrid takes over the campaign.

Many secrets come out including Infinity’s fake illness; Georgina’s affair with a female stable handler; James’ affair with Alice; McAfee’s relationship with Skye, Martin and Luther Hobart attempting to murder their father and brother and other attempts on Payton’s life.

Cast

Ben Platt as Payton Hobart, wannabee Class President and the protagonist of the show. Payton often has trouble connecting with his feelings and can be very demanding of those around him. He strives for perfection in everything he does and when things don’t go his way, he cannot deal with it.

Gwyneth Paltrow as Georgina Hobart, Payton’s mother and unhappily married yet rich.

Zoey Deutch as Infinity Jackson, an ill classmate of Payton’s that he recruits to win the election.

Jessica Lange as Dusty Jackson, Infinity’s grandma who raises her alone but exploits Infinity’s illness for monetary gain.

Laura Dreyfuss and Theo Germaine as McAfee Westbrook and James Sullivan, Payton’s friends and campaign managers. They are Payton’s right-hand guy and girl yet have lives all of their own.

Julia Schlaepfer as Alice Charles, Payton’s girlfriend who dumps him online to get a pity vote on his campaign.

Rahne Jones as Skye, Payton’s enemy. She is River’s running mate for Class President and is keen on making San Sebastian High more equal for minorities. After River’s death, she becomes Astrid’s number two.

David Corenswet as River, Payton’s friend who runs against him for class president. They meet as River tutors Payton in Mandarin and they share a kiss.

Lucy Boynton as Astrid, River’s girlfriend who takes over his campaign after his suicide. She is rich yet feels trapped in her privileged life.

Trevor and Trey Eason as Martin and Luther Hobart, Payton’s older brothers that set against destroying his life and his father. They resent him as even though he is adopted, their mother loves him more.

Benjamin Barrett as Ricardo, Infinity’s boyfriend who becomes jealous of Payton giving her attention and schemes with Dusty to bring him down.

Bob Balaban as Mr Hobart, Payton’s father. Early in the series as Georgina reveals that she is in an affair and no longer loves him, he jumps out of a window. His sons then try and kill him for the inheritance.

Judith Light and Bette Midler guest star in the last episode as Dede Standish and her Chief of Staff, Hadassah Gold. They will become important rivals for Payton and his group in the next series.

Art Direction:

The first thing that jumped out to me were the colours and lighting of the show. The feel is almost like a Wes Anderson film with lots of symmetry and bright bold colour choices for sets and outfits. The world appears much cleaner and brighter than it is in reality and apart from the various scenes in New York City, there is no mess or dirt anywhere. This is because most of the characters are rich apart from Infinity and Dusty yet their house still looks spotless. I think it was done to show the separation from the real world. It isn’t real life, it’s something more heightened; A 4k version of the world. The locations were also amazing. Payton’s home really showed his family dynamic and the disconnect he feels to his father and brothers. Astrid’s house is also so big that she doesn’t have to interact with her parents that much and she can just be herself in her bedroom. The school setting looked rich enough but also had a homely vibe. Kids felt safe there and people less well off were not seen as different by the school. Everyone was seen as worthy of a place there, at least by the on screen characters.

Costume:

Every outfit was so amazing and spoke volumes about the character wearing them. Not just the bright colours but the nature in which they were worn. Some characters used their wardrobes to show who they are. Payton for example, always dressed sensibly and appropriately as a leader should look. James and McAfee were a little more expressive, particularly McAfee with her block colour pant suits and tinted glasses but still in the realms of smart and business like. Alice is more preppy like she has just come from a country club or afternoon tea. Infinity didn’t really care about style and just wore things that gave her comfort or had nice pictures on. The clothes were another element that raised the show to a heightened reality as most high school students would not put as much effort into their appearance every day.

Script

This show is a satire with comedy elements but the lines are not laugh out loud funny. Sometimes something is funny because it is so spot on to the current political/social climate or that is so outrageous that you cannot help but laugh in almost disbelief. There were also some very sweet and loving moments that really make you think. One of my favourite lines is “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a good person or not, as long as you do good things”. River says this to Payton in a dream sequence when Payton is questioning his own morals. Another line that has stuck in my brain is during a scene where on the day of the election, Georgina tries to help a student who has forgotten her ID so cannot vote. She begs the students on the door to give her a ballot and when they eventually do, the student admits that she is not voting for Georgina’s son. She says something like it doesn’t matter who you vote for as long as you do. I thought that was a really strong line about the importance of voting.

Tone

The tone of this show is one that changes as the episodes progress but it is certainly not light and airy. The first episode, for example contains River describing his suicide attempt and then he actually kills himself off screen. This is a heavy plot point to start on but the tone of the show is set in realism and not optimism. If you’re looking to watch something for light relief, the Politician is definitely not going to tick that box. The political satire combined with heightened drama is what makes this show so hard to resist. You start to care for these characters despite their many and varied flaws. By the last episode of the series, after the time jump, the tone has changed to a more hopeful one. Ben Platt himself said in an interview with Queerty “I think it has a hopeful ending and an exciting ending”.

Music

The soundtrack has a mixture of old and new songs with songs by Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield, The Cure, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel and Donna Summer along with Chvrches, Otis Redding, Tame Impala and Ben Platt. A stand out song to me was ‘River’ a Joni Mitchell cover that Payton sang at River’s funeral. Ben Platt has been in several Broadway shows and the Pitch Perfect films so I’m glad they made good use of his voice and his own original music. In the last episode, Payton ends up at a piano bar after discovering his love of singing in the series. He sings a great cover of the Billy Joel song, Vienna.

Politics and Real World Issues: Gun Control, Munchhausen by Proxy, Voter Bias, Election Fraud

While this show is fictional and has fictional characters is is definitely set amongst real world issues. One of Payton’s first policies is to limit gun control in his area and suggests that they hold a campaign to get everyone to donate their guns. This is an issue that is very prevalent in America especially in recent years with the March for Our Lives campaign following the Parkland school shooting. Infinity’s grandmother pretends to everyone including her granddaughter that Infinity is sick with cancer. It is proved by Payton and his friends that she does not have the disease and Dusty Jackson was faking it. Munchhausen by proxy is when someone pretends that someone else is ill. Often it is done for financial gain. Dusty and Infinity go on lots of trips that are paid for because of Infinity’s illness. This condition came into the media with the story of Gypsy Rose whose mother was doing the same to her and Gypsy killed her. Zoey Deutch has said in an interview that Infinity was not based on Gypsy Rose but there are of course, similarities.

In the fifth episode, the Voter, we are shown the work that both sides of the campaign go into to get votes. Elliot is polled by all the candidates and their teams to try and get his view. Another scene shows Georgina complaining to the student election team that a student is not allowed to vote because she forgot her ID. The student reveals that she was not going to vote for Payton, to which Georgina replies that isn’t the point. This shows a flipped point of view as you would think Georgina would fight for someone on her team. Election fraud is also a concept in the show. Astrid drops of the election and so every vote is null and void but Payton is always big on winning fair and square. For example, he wants to get into Harvard on merit and not because of bribery.

Reception

The Politician is a show that was created for audiences rather than critics. Rotten Tomatoes, a popular reviewing platform that declares a whether a film is rotten or not with a percentage out of 100 has given the Politician 57% from 86 reviews. However, many fan favourites have recieved rotten ratings on the site in the past. The Guardian’s film critic, Lucy Mangan has said “Ryan Murphy’s student politics is a born winner” So clearly not all reviewers agree.

Final thoughts on The Politician are that it is a vital and entertaining show that has a deep and powerful message for our times. Everyone I know that has watched the series loved it from my generation to the older one. Such a different take on the teen comedy genre but still has flavours you will recognise.

Stay tuned for my countdown to Christmas with the Netflix and cinema releases that are worth watching this holiday season.

Happy Watching

Robyn

The Goldfinch Review

I had been looking forward to this film for a while due to the starry cast and the trailer. It did not disappoint. Every aspect of the film was done really well and the film definitely lived up to expectations. I won’t give too much away but the film begins at the end of the events with the main character, Theo as an adult in a hotel room in Amsterdam. Something has clearly happened to him and the film tells the story of how he got there.

Hello readers,

Just a quick review today as I have had lots of deadlines recently and I’m working on a bigger post that will hopefully be out soon.

I saw the Goldfinch last Sunday and it had such an impact on me that I thought I would write a review. I had hoped to finish this review by the end of October but I wanted to do it justice.

The Goldfinch

I had been looking forward to this film for a while due to the starry cast and the trailer. It did not disappoint. Every aspect of the film was done really well and the film definitely lived up to expectations. I won’t give too much away but the film begins at the end of the events with the main character, Theo as an adult in a hotel room in Amsterdam. Something has clearly happened to him and the film tells the story of how he got there.

As a young teen in New York City, Theo suffers a traumatic event that leaves him with no where to go. The synopsis reveals that his mother is killed in a bombing at the Met. He goes to a friend Andy’s house where the Barbour family takes Theo in. Theo is very cultured as he liked to attend art galleries with his mother. Mrs Barbour bonds with him over this. When Theo’s estranged father comes back into the picture, he takes him back to Las Vegas with bartender girlfriend, Xandra. He makes a new friend Boris who leads him to a path of drugs and alcohol.

The storyline switches from Theo as an adult, working in antiques and dating Andy’s sister back to Theo in Las Vegas, struggling with loneliness and his father trying to scam him. Boris is also lonely living with his abusive father and the two bond quickly. We slowly piece together what happened between Theo’s childhood and his life as an adult.

At the centre of the film is the Goldfinch. A piece of art that Theo was looking at before the explosion in the Met. He finds it in the wreckage and decides to keep it. It is a expensive painting but Theo can’t find it in himself to give it back.

There are many things I have left out as I don’t want to reveal too much but I think the chemistry between the actors and the art direction of the film really sold it. The emotions explored were so intricate and deep that I really empathised with Theo’s life and everything he goes through.

The star-studded cast includes:

Oakes Fegley from Pete’s Dragon (2016) plays the protagonist young Theo. He had such a great manner and expression that I really believed in his character. I think he will become a household name in the future.

Ansel Elgort from The Fault in Our Stars (2014) is adult Theo. The likeness to Fegley is outstanding. Whether Elgort observed Fegley’s character and adapted it for his own character or vice versa but I never questioned that he was the older version of Fegley. It was a different role for Elgort from his usual teen films and Theo’s spiral into drugs and crime has continued into his adulthood.

Aneurin Barnard known for Dunkirk (2017) is older Boris who Theo reconnects with in New York years after the events in Vegas. His likeness to younger Boris is also uncanny but not as great as the two Theos. I have seen Barnard in another film this year Dead in a Week or Your Money Back and his character was so completely different to Boris that I was not comparing in this film.

Finn Wolfhard known for playing Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things (2016) takes a different turn as young Boris. He is from Ukraine so has a strong accent that I thought was very good. His bad boy character was so unlike Mike but Wolfhard played it really well. I think he is going to continue to be a successful young actor.

Sarah Paulson from American Horror Story (2011-2018) as Xandra, Theo’s dad’s girlfriend is transformed into a blonde bartender with highlights and false nails. I haven’t seen her in a role like this before and I think she really pulled it off.

Luke Wilson known for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) is Theo’s dad. A washed up actor who has got into gambling, Larry turns up in New York and takes Theo away from his new life to Las Vegas where the desert is encroaching on the road. Larry doesn’t treat Theo very well and is trying to get his money. I wouldn’t reveal the ending but it was certainly a twist.

Jeffrey Wright known for Shaft (2000) as Hobie. He runs an antiques shop and his business partner, Welty dies in the explosion. Theo works with him as an adult and the two have a strong bond. Hobie also looks after Pippa, Welty’s niece until she goes to live with her aunt. We see Pippa again in the future when she comes back to the shop.

Nicole Kidman known for Moulin Rouge! (2001) is Mrs Barbour, the first mother figure Theo finds after his mother’s death. Her character was a total revelation as I feel that Kidman does loving yet poised very well but she was certainly a central player in the film.

That will be all for my review today and I hope to do a few more posts this month.

Films I have enjoyed recently are Judy; Zombieland: Double Tap; Ad Astra; Oceans’s Eleven & Twelve and In Bruges.

A few shows I can recommend are Daybreak; Living With Yourself; The Good Place and Looking for Alaska.

There’s lots of great things coming out in the cinema: The Aeronauts; Midway; Ford v Ferrari; Last Christmas; 21 Bridges; Knives Out and Charlie’s Angels.

Happy Watching

Robyn