It would seem I now only use this blog to post my top 10 TV shows of the year. So here is my rundown of the best for 2017.
Last year I picked the amazing Atlanta and this year there has been some more quality TV to excited by. For my list of the Films of 2017 head to my Letterboxd account:
Baskets: Season Two
Zach Galifianakis brings back the dry comedy but it’s Louie Anderson that shines the most.
This season it really kicked on to the next level and it was all thanks to an outstanding performance from Louie Anderson. The character Christine is real impressive, the damaged and yet unrelentingly positive mother of 2 sets of twins. Watching the dynamic of Chip and Dale, in what was a much more focused story, really makes this more than just a somber comedy.
Inside No.9: Series 3
This show continues to surprise.
My favorite and most impressive episode of the series was episode 5, in which it simply centers around a lost shoe. Once again the writing skills and strong characters manage to make the surreal from something very simple. I’m constantly impressed by how much can be done in the short half hour. Can’t wait for the new series.
Look it just happened to work as my number 9…
Master of None: Season Two
It’s all about love.
My favourite show of 2015 still remains incredibly strong despite taking a slightly different approach this year. I simply love the way the show doesn’t over do any of the drama, rather it allows its central performances to dictate the tempo. The new setting is most suitable for its central character and really plays up the romantic cliche.
Taboo: Series One
I’m a big fan of Tom Hardy, particularly his heavy eye lid and ability to act with minimal dialogue. Luckily Taboo offers the perfect scenario for just this kind of acting. Straight from the start it sets up a surreal back story for its central character and its gritty nature really had me hooked.
The Handmaid’s Tale: Season One
This one kind of came out of nowhere for me, I heard about it but really didn’t expect it to be quite this good. With a subject matter and setting so very dark, it’s Elisabeth Moss who helps guide this film to it’s important points. All of this excellent drama is matched by beautiful cinematography. Look at the colour palette.
Detectorists: Series 3
The most heartwarming and joyful show of the year.
The end of series 2 broke me and I spent a long time wondering if we would ever return to the metal detecting of Andy and Lance. Thankfully it did come back and it’s the most beautiful conclusion you could hope for. Honestly seek it out.
Nathan For You: Season 4
Awkwardly funny and yet beautiful.
Not many shows can get me to laugh quite as much and consistently as Nathan Fielder’s unique mockumentary hybrid. Whilst still having the outlandish and awkward business advice, this season took on a narrative. I did not expect to get so emotionally invested and the finale ends up being some of the best TV of the year.
The Leftovers: Season 3
The final season is unforgettable.
Obscure, beautiful and all too real the conclusion is incredibly satisfying and yet leaves the viewer feeling empty. What has always impressed me is how the show manages to take such big ideas and yet remains a focused character piece. In between these moments of grandeur we get light comic relief, best showcased by the not so subtle nods to Theroux’s er… package.
Halt and Catch Fire: Season 4
I’m still broken.
The most underappreciated show of recent years returns one last time and it’s the most heartbreaking drama I’ve seen in a long time. It should be difficult to create a show based on such strong minded characters and in a niche setting. However I felt myself become invested in each person involved, it’s the most ‘human’ show you will see.
Now most years this or The Leftovers would easily top my list, so what on earth could possibly be number one?…
Twin Peaks: The Return
It’s happening again and it’s beautiful.
Some years back it was announced that Twin Peaks would return, my favorite TV show of all time was getting another new lease of life. I was incredibly nervous and conflicted, how could Lynch pull off anything close to what the original two seasons managed?
Well straight from episode one of the new season I new Lynch had done the impossible. Here we have a show that is unchallenged by any other, it isn’t nailed down by a particular genre and it sure doesn’t follow any conventions. I loved every minute of it’s quirky nature, mind bending imagery and it’s refusal to give answers. Simply cannot wait to rewatch it and to return to the amazing world of Twin Peaks.
Peaky Blinders, Glow, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Orange Is The New Black, Big Little Lies, Top of the lake: China Girl, Insecure, Bojack Horseman, Game of Thrones, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Better Things, The Trip to Spain, Santa Clarita Diet, The Girlfriend Experience, Rick & Morty
Stranger Things, Ozark, House of Cards, Legion, Fargo, 13 Reasons Why, Transparent,
Still to watch:
American Vandal, Punisher, The Good Place, Mindhunter, Godless,
Last year my favourite TV show was Master of None. It was original, funny and moving. Its some of the best TV to come out in recent years. Thankfully this year has offered up some real gems and I put them in a top 10 which no one else has ever done.
Inside No.9: The Devil of Christmas
One of the best comedies of recent years
I bloody love Pemberton and Shearsmiths contained comedy, its so different and well thought out. The silent episode (much like Bojack actually) was incredible and in this Xmas special you can see the genius originality at work again.
Peaky Blinders: Series 3
There hasn’t been a drama from the BBC in recent years that has even come close to the quality of Peaky Blinders
This series it upped the chaos and violence creating real high tension. When so many other shows are ramping up hype with character deaths and ‘mind blowing’ plot reveals its refreshing to just been drawn in by Thomas Shelby and his henchmen.
I originally missed the web series before catching it on its move to HBO
Currently a trend in TV is what I like to call ‘reveal culture’ (Hipster enough yet?) the likes of Game of Thrones and Westworld leading the way. Fortunately there are dramas out there willing to be contained and not focus on the latest twist. High Maintenance has a great structure that uses one major reoccurring character who introduces us to a wide variety of people. Each episode has its own story line that isn’t ever over complicated. One of the highlight episodes is ‘Grandpa’ where Yael Stone is an enthusiastic and talkative dog walker.
Planet Earth II
What a beast of a show
Its universally loved, has an iconic narrator and the lengths they go to film some truly incredible footage is like no other show.
Eric Andre Show
Absurdist comedy doesn’t get better.
Everything about Eric Andre fits my taste, it is alternative and ridiculous. The talk show element has been done many times over but never in such situations. The latest season had to tackle its rise in popularity but that just made it better than ever. #BirdUp
The Night Of
Intense and intriguing
HBO is doing some really interesting shows these days. The murder mystery genre is overloaded yet fortunately here with an outstanding Riz Ahmed and fantastic writing I was hooked throughout. Give it a go.
Pamela Adlon at her very best
Its a very focused drama, where Adlon plays a working actress whilst balancing her daughters all of which have various opinions on how she is dealing with life. Its a great drama and I recommend checking it out.
Halt and Catch Fire: Series 3
One of the most overlooked shows has its strongest series yet
I love this show, all the characters are well drawn out and have their own complications to deal with. This series the ‘plays’ are strong and it very much feels conclusive.
Horace & Pete
Unlike anything else
Firstly I’m a massive Louis CK fan and so I naturally put myself on his emailing list. Anyone on the list received an incredibly open and innovative email from Louis detailing his latest project. All he wanted is around $3 an episode but some felt this was too much so he simply reduced it.
This and the whole distribution method had me in awe but that could never prepare me for the actual content. Sent in sleazy pub run by two brothers trying to adjust to a society that has moved on and dealing with their own conflicts. Its incredible, shot as though its a live play and in part improvised the whole setting is very real. Featuring heavy subjects and drawn out scenes its far from a crowd-pleaser but I urge you to give it a try.
Recently I bought the new Childish Gambino album and I’m probably still listening to it on a daily basis. Basically Donald Glover is having an amazing year and its justified.
Its been a great year for TV arguably more original work is coming out on this platform than in film and here Atlanta has found the perfect blend of Comedy with a focused drama. What I enjoyed most is how it gave all its central characters the chance to express themselves. For a couple of episodes Glovers character Earn is barely seen and we get to explore the likes of Van and Paperboi. Its this that makes it stand out the most, with genuinely hilarious moments (some Tim & Eric awkwardness thrown in) mixed with a great story. I couldn’t recommend this more and I can’t wait for the next season.
Flowers, Insecure, Goliath, Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, The Night Manager, Search Party, Comedy Bang Bang, Baskets, Black Mirror, Lady Dynamite and Bojack Horseman
Westworld, Man In The High Castle, Transparent, Daredevil, The OA
So that’s my list. I’ve actually managed to watch quite a few things but still a couple around that I might want to get on. Now to look forward to 2017, where the greatest television event of my lifetime happens. #theowlsarenotwhattheyseem
Presuming you’ve read the first part of this epic, totally original blog post we may as well jump straight to it:
(Once again this is in no particular order)
Films are often seen as the perfect ‘escapism’ however they can be utilised to show the very harshness of life. In this case the Dardenne brothers are very adapt at creating such a natural set up and Marion Coltillard beautifully juggles the central character’s emotions. It’s a pretty simple story, however given the relevance that unemployment holds currently it feels altogether very powerful.
4 – The Babadook
Rarely do you see a Horror film included in a Top 10 I for one don’t watch as many as I perhaps should,
however given the stigma attached by various Hollywood flops it’s not hard to see why. Currently the form of ‘supernatural’ has been made popular by the likes of Paranormal Activity and Insidious, so when another ‘original’ is on it’s way out from Australia I wasn’t exactly hopeful. I was of course wrong. The Babadook may handle familiar themes of an interfering being however what made it truly scary was the way it tackled childhood imagination, whilst also dealing with a single mother’s responsibility. Go see The Ba-ba-ba..dook! Dook! DOOOOOKH
3 – Gone Girl
There’s a good few films that deserve to sit in this Top 10 (See ‘Honourable Mentions’ below)
however there was just something about Gone Girl that really managed to keep it’s audience engaged. The tone of the film was perfectly balanced between a dark power hungry thriller and a bleak dry comedy. In the strangest of moments I found myself on the edge of my seat to collapsing in a genuine fit of laughter. All of this was realised through David Fincher’s brilliant awareness to detail.
2 – Inside Llewyn Davis
There’s something pretty remarkable in watching a scene with Justin Timberlake involved and
finding yourself happily captivated and singing along. It’s likely helped by the mood set by the Coen brother’s, the hapless musician played by Oscar Isaac and the many sub-characters that make the story so rewarding. Such is the underplayed feeling throughout, I wasn’t fully aware how much I actually enjoyed this and then the song ‘Please Mr Kennedy’ started playing on my laptop. It all came flooding back, in fact the soundtrack is now playing as I type. Hipster1993
1 – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson slots in to the list, even though this latest instalment is below that of last years
Moonrise Kingdom. What makes Grand Budapest Hotel so enjoyable though was that it felt like Anderson’s most complete film. Not only does it have another fantastic ensemble of actors both new and old, but it was simply his funniest to date. It turns out Ralph Fiennes is more than capable of pulling off the quirky tones that we come to expect of an Anderson lead character and once more the cinematography matches the eloquence of the story.
Now just for the long list of honourable mentions plus a few examples of one’s I’ve yet to see.
Starred up, They Came Together, Blue Ruin, The Lunchbox, Godzilla, Her, Intersteller, Under the Skin, Frank, Snowpiercer, Cold in July, Locke, The Double, Dallas Buyers Club, Only Lovers Left Alive, X-Men: Days of future past, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Lego Movie, Calvary, Nightcrawler, and The Equalizer
Some of the films I still need to watch:
Ida, Selma, Leviathan, The Wind Rises, The Hobbit (the last two sequels) and The Rover
Just in case you thought the number 2 comes before the number 1 click this link for Part 1:
Happy New Year
The fantastic central performance of Jenny Slate is matched by a well written and refreshing stand-up comedian character, which deals with real life issues.
There’s not too much that can be said about director Gillian Robespierre, who’s film career has literally just begun. In 2008 she created a short film ‘Beach’ but really her time has been spent with the idea of creating a piece that truly represents pregnancy and the struggles than can come with this. Collaborating with friends Anna Bean and Karen Maine they embarked on realising this simple but effective idea around a young woman’s experiences of pregnancy and released the short in 2009. After gaining a following they decided it was worth telling the story in a feature format, which leads us to this certain release.
Donna Stern is a young female comedian whose material aims to project her life as a 20 something; the humour is daring and knows no boundaries. However after becoming unexpectedly pregnant she realises the responsibilities of womanhood and embarks on a journey of empowerment.
In case you haven’t already realised this is a very indie film that utilises actor’s and crew that clearly share the passion for the subject matter at hand. This is what makes for a very authentic outlook that clearly has some personal input from the writers and Robespierre. Firstly Jenny Slate perhaps best recognised for her role in Parks and Recreation among others, manages to invoke the true character of Donna. It’s a great performance no doubt one that has been perfected since the short in 2009. The unapologetic humour of Donna represents how young women are seen in modern society, something that resonates even more following the passing of Joan Rivers.
However the film is more than simply a look at female empowerment, though it clearly achieves this, the real issue is how pregnancy and more specifically abortion is viewed at current. One of the films that might come to mind in relation to this film is ‘Juno’ however despite that having a number of qualities it still shied away from representation of how very daunting that can be for a young woman. One particular scene in Obvious Child perfectly captures this fear; it involves Donna waiting on a pregnancy test when her ‘brain’ starts mocking her for not being responsible enough. This is a message about how not only such a young woman may question her decisions but how society makes it’s rather unforgiving presumptions. Far from shying away from the many fears this brings up, it tackles each issue relentlessly up to the point of the controversial topic of abortion which is handled superbly.
Though this may seem like rather bleak viewing, one if its greatest achievements is being entertaining and ultimately uplifting. This is helped by an ongoing romance between Donna and her one night ‘standee’ Max played by Jake Lacy. The scenes between the two of them offer some of the most laughs and as their friendship strengthened it was a relief to see it not hold down to the cliché’s of Romantic Comedies. With a supporting role from Gabby Hoffmann and even a small part for David Cross, these characters all felt part of the ordeal.
It’s great to see a film deal with such an issue like this with a natural tone throughout and still allowing the humour to blossom. The topics are something that really needs to be represented more and I hope this goes some way to helping realise that.
Fun and meaningful
The very harsh reality of this film is matched by the exhausting and human central character
Belgian born brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have become specialists in French speaking Dramas, with a tendency towards one main character. 2011’s ‘The Kid with a Bike’ was a fantastic encapsulation of a young boy abandoned by his father and his struggles to make sense of the world. The Dardennes are clearly interested in themes of family and the various issues that can arise from this, for example their first real ‘hit’ Rosetta focused on a young girl trying to keep her job whilst living with her alcoholic mother.
Taking the lead this time is Hollywood starlet Marion Coltillard playing Sandra. Having just discovered that her work colleagues are opting for a bonus in exchange for her dismissal, she endeavours over the weekend to ask each of them if they would reconsider.
In the current employment market many films are trying to offer hope and optimism to its viewers, which is all very well but it often feels very fantastical considering how unemployment rates are looking pretty damning. However thankfully the Dardennes have never shied away from real social issues, in fact they tend to chase them down. With this in mind the main character has to carry the whole film as well as the huge burden that she goes through, thankfully Marion Coltillard is excellent. Following a few major Hollywood roles with Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Inception’ in particular, Coltillard has found time to revert back to the indie market. In 2012 she played the tough paraplegic Stephanie in ‘Rust and Bone’ showing just her range of acting, despite what many people might say about her performance as Miranda in Batman’s conclusion. In this particular role as Sandra she manages to match the films exhausting tone, in what is a naturalistic approach causing many to shout “Oscar”.
However that’s not to say this isn’t just a film with one stand out performance, far from it because not only is the plot compelling but a number of supporting roles help raise the tension. Firstly there’s a Dardenne ‘veteran’ in Fabrizio Rongione who plays Sandra’s husband Manu. The character often seems to act as a motivator to Sandra, as to be expected she doesn’t exactly feel too confident about persuading anyone. It’s a nice purposefully underwritten character that ultimately feels real as he shares her grief, which is thankful to the audience because it really is draining. With the nature of the film taking on a two day and wouldn’t you know it one night period the workers appearances vary from hollow to emotional. This aims to bring forward the various moralities in the workplace and also importantly doesn’t always consider those voting against Sandra as enemies.
What encapsulates all these aforementioned qualities is the very subtle direction and cinematography that in parts is beautiful but also withdrawn. It no doubt helps that the Dardenne’s have consistently worked with Alain Marcoen as their cinematographer; this is no doubt excellent for collaboration, whilst Marcoen clearly has a keen eye for exactly what action is most important. Finally to round of this drawn tone, the soundtrack is non-existent meaning we only hear the characters and the surrounding landscape.
For me there’s nothing that can beat a true slow paced drama with very real characters, throw in a tough well written story, superb central acting plus some of that human nature and well you’ve got a gem of a film.
Simply loved it
So much fun to be had for all audiences, in an adventure that is so delightfully silly and over the top.
It’s difficult to know where to start in regards to James Gunn, initially he sought rock & roll fame before eventually working for Troma Studios in which he made Tromeo and Juliet. Moving away from this cult status he found himself writing for Warner Bros and in particular the live action Scobby-Doo film. With a family of brothers in the industry he managed to find his footing in film, even if that includes himself amongst the embarrassment of Movie-43. Being an avid comic reader himself this nerdy connection is often something that Marvel like to see in their directors and with Gunn’s clear interest in comedy, taking on this project seemed a good fit.
After stealing a powerful orb, outlaw Peter Quill finds himself chased down by the evil Ronan and his only help is a talking Raccoon, a humanoid tree, a revengeful convict called Drax and a notorious assassin.
The buzz for Guardians of the Galaxy has been building ever since it was announced that Marvel would tackle one of their more ‘unconventional’ rooster of superhero’s. It’s certainly one of the most obscure adventures in the superhero universe, originally dating back to a concept in 1969 they didn’t actually emerge until the 90’s. However this isn’t the team we know today as it quickly got rebooted in 2008 (no doubt with the film in mind) to have the wacky, tongue in cheek type characters that make this latest release.
One of the biggest talking points of the films creation is that finally Marvel had decided to employ their first female writer in Nicole Perlman, who through a certain scheme from the company was given a whole host of projects to work on. Settling with the relatively unknown Guardians it seemed a risk from her point of view, but one that would ultimately result in her script being given the go ahead alongside Gunn. Having this almost rare originality is tough to find in the world of Superhero’s and it really makes the basis for a thoroughly fresh experience.
In this cinematic age where Marvel and its owner Disney is dictating the majority of films releases in the year, it’s hard not to get frustrated when the latest one hits the screens. However the Guardians offer something different, the film is fully aware of just how daft it is and it plays off this idea wonderfully. Firstly the ensemble of characters involve Rocket (Bradley Cooper) an offset of a scientific experiment fussing human DNA with Raccoon. Then there’s Groot (Vin Diesel) a humanoid tree who’s vocabulary resembles that of Hodor only stretching to “I am groot”. Drax ‘The Destroyer’ played by wrestler Dave Bautista who is hell bent on avenging his families deaths by taking on Ronan. Then attempting to add some sort of normality is Gamora, with Zoe Saldana doing her best Avatar impression. Finally but arguably most importantly is Star Lord himself aka Peter Quill aka aka now Hollywood star Chris Pratt. It’s this brilliant cast that manages to mimic the idea of a strange collection of characters. This makes for a thoroughly enjoyable voyage as we learn about each of them and is perfectly matched by what is a very aware dialogue of silly insults, stumbles and childishness.
Then of course there’s a whole load of supporting characters one of which is the villain Ronan who although is the main threat takes a back seat to the development of the main team. It’s something which Marvel have failed to do in the past, notably in The Avengers the clash of those hero’s who already had back stories fleshed out in standalone films, made those still waiting in line difficult to engage with. With Ronan played by Lee Pace, there’s a feeling that he’s almost a walking cliché of super-villains, which by the way is a good thing, as this not only allows our hero’s to triumph in story but in character. Moreover the cast expands out to the likes of Karen Gillian another British star who acts out the evil of Nebula. Not wanting to dwell too long the list continues with Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz, Benecio Del Toro and Michael Rooker all in supporting roles.
Guardians of the Galaxy is this year’s best superhero film and easily the greatest amount of pure fun to be had at a cinema. It’s equally relate able for the hardcore fanatics and general viewers alike, making for a fully rounded film for all.
Oh what fun