William Shakespeare (David Mitchell) is splitting his life between two locations. In London he is in the world of the theatre, writing and drawing inspiration from all around him. In Stratford-Upon-Avon, he is with his family… drawing inspiration from all around him.
Created by Ben Elton, with echoes of Blackadder, Upstart Crow has a stellar cast and it’s an awesome concept, basing each ep around one of Shakespeare’s plays. While overall I found it a bit twee, with some of the concepts really forced, it has moments of utter genius. The ep where everyone is convinced that Hamlet is a comedy is brilliant. Well worth a watch.
Is it the zeitgeist, or is it just coincidence that these pieces of media are telling the story of feminism in the sixties and seventies? In Australia, we have Brazen Hussies, and from Hollywood, Mrs America. This tells of the women who are the driving forces around the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) in the US. There is Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) and her various supporters (played by so many wonderful actors including Jeanne Tripplhorn and Sarah Paulson), who is super-conservative and thinks that rights for women takes away from American values and their place in the home. Then there are the feminists – Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba) Bella Abzug (Margo Martindake) and so many more.
It’s a real eye-opener, especially when looking at US politics at the moment. To see how people can be ill-informed, can use false information to fight something they are fearful of, and to be hypocritical and unaware of it. We are so used to the idea of ‘fake news’, but to see how it was being used decades ago… it’s disheartening in so many ways. Yes, we have come a long way from there, but with the stuff we see from America, and with everything coming out from Australian parliament at the moment (in particular, the appalling way things are being handled by those in power), there’s a long frigging way to go.
Stuck inside like much of the world in some form of lockdown thanks to the little pandemic, Bo Burnham created a comedy special filled with songs and brief sketches. And apparently, everyone that watched it thought it was brilliant. It seems I’m the rare exception. I agree that many of the songs are clever and make some timely points about the world at this particular point in time, but I just didn’t connect with it in the way others did. It was fine. It was just fine to me. That’s it.
Often, I’ll just start watching something because it comes up in the ‘popular in Australia’ category, and I should really remember that just because a lot of people watch something doesn’t mean it’s good.
This is pretty terrible. I feel like it could have made a reasonable film, or maybe a two- or three-part series, but six episodes were too many. Essentially, the story is of a woman who works as a receptionist in a psych clinic who winds up in an affair with her new boss whilst becoming friends with the boss’s wife. Which in itself was pretty implausible, and nothing that was done in the show gave me reason to believe it. And then the secrets start coming out. And… I guess everything comes together in the end. But it just wasn’t worth watching it all.
Camille (Amy Adams) is a journalist unwillingly sent back to her home town to investigate a missing girl. She doesn’t want to return because she has memories of her cruel mother(Patricia Clarkson), her distant father (Henry Czerny), the sister who died (Lulu Wilson) and the sister who remains (Eliza Scanlen). But when the disappearance turns out to be a murder, the tensions become deeper. Haunted by her past (and her present), Camille spirals. Then there’s the sexy out-of-town cop (Chris Messina), the local cop who has a close friendship with Camille’s mother (Matt Craven) and the group of friends who remind Camille of the world she left behind.
This show was compelling, strong performances, beautifully created, and it had this mysterious style which captured the often drunk POV of Camille, along with these sharps cuts and loud, sudden, sharp noises which made the whole thing disjointed and strange.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
After watching, I wanted to read the book (as is often my want) and it was fascinating to read the source material and see how it had been taken and shaped into the show. Both tell the same story, but in such different ways it was almost like two totally separate projects. Both pretty impressive.
Any time I see that Frances McDormand is in something, I want to check it out. So with no prior knowledge of the production, I watched the short series Oliver Kitteridge and it was fascinating. Not exactly linear, yet mostly so. No overall story arch, but more like a series of shorts. Olive (Frances McDormand) is pretty unpleasant but yet the audience is on her side. We want her to succeed despite the way she treats people – she’s direct but to the point of being offensive. She’s the type of person that I’d hate to have in my life, yet if she was and I made her happy for me or proud of me, it would be a huge feat. The series is charming but not lightweight. And made me desperate to read the book.
Olive Ketteridge plus Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
The book is wonderful. Each chapter is its own story, sometimes with Olive as the main focus and othertimes with her presence more in the background. Like the show, she is unlikeable yet very lovable. The way she treats those she loves so harshly and sometimes seems to have far more generosity for those she’s not close to. A second book, Olive, Again, came out last year and I was a little hesitant, worried that it might not live up to the wonder that the first book inspired in me. But I shouldn’t have worried. It was delightful.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Travelling artist Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive in the small town of Shaker and become entwined in the lives of the Richardson family. Suddenly the seemingly closely curated live of Elena Richardson is turned upside down. But when there is a custody battle over a Chinese baby that was abandoned, things get ugly.
There was so much in this book, and I loved it. The characters are so compelling, there is so much discussion on race and privilege and expectations… I couldn’t put it down.
Little Fires Everywhere
Perhaps it would have been better to have more time between reading the book and watching the show. But all I could see were the differences. Which was fine, I could absolutely see reasons for making the changes, especially for a TV series. I can’t say I preferred one to the other, although the end is quite different in both (well, without spoiling it, the way it unfolds).
My gut is either see or read it, but maybe not both. And either is good, but it is really hard to pass up watching Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington leading such a perfectly cast series. And yet, even as I say that, the book is so good. Oh I don’t know. Do both.
Lambs of God by Marele Day
Three nuns live off the British coast in a ruin of a convent. They are Sisters Margarita, Iphigenia and Carla, two older women and one much younger. Their days are punctuated with prayer, stories and knitting the wool they shear and spin from the sheep who share their space. They are an enclosed order, which means that they have no contact with the rest of the world, so when a young priest appears to tell them that the head honchos of the church plan to sell their land, it doesn’t go down too well.
I loved this book so much. It’s hilarious, the characters are so beautifully depicted with their flaws, their strange existence, their power and their weaknesses. I love the stories they tell each other, fairy tales changed to suit their purpose. Wonderful.
Lambs of God – TV Review
A four-part mini-series was produced in 2019 starring the wonderful Essie Davis as Sister Iphigenia and Ann Dowd as Sister Margarita amongst others. I was very excited about it – it looked beautiful, the convent was run down and the nuns filthy and wild as depicted in the book. There was always going to be a few issues translating for the screen as I felt the end of the book wrapped up a bit easily. However, I wasn’t expecting a whole additional plot line which I felt was mostly unnecessary and really ruined the story for me.
A soap opera set in a woman’s prison… what could be better? I’m a bit young for the original Prisoner: Cell Block H which ran from 1979 to 1986 (though I’ve seen some best moments from it), so when it was essentially rebooted as Wentworth a few years ago, I was ready to get on board. So good, so ridiculous, the corruption, the violence, the very stupid decisions. There have been several storylines which have made me angry (not least the whole ‘man abuses woman, women eventually ends up in a relationship with said man’ which is appalling and should never be used), but most are your stock standard soap fare. It was good when eventually some indigenous characters were introduced to the main cast (especially when the wonderful Leah Purcell joined the cast), though the cast remains very caucasian-heavy. I felt like Season 7 was starting to drag a bit, but it definitely kicked back into life Season 8. Though the closing image of the season shows that we are about to drop back into the utterly insane in Season 9.
One of the mostly highly publicised cases in US history is that of OJ Simpson over the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her boyfriend Ron Goldman. This dramatisation of the events around the crime and the trial tell the story – or some parts of the story. It has a strong cast full of very familiar faces – from Cuba Gooding Jnr playing OJ, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian- to just so many other familiar faces.
While I was old enough to follow the case, I wasn’t overly interested at the time. I saw the news updates, but there wasn’t the type of access to media there is now. I read articles and I sort of know what happened, but I wanted to see how it was going to be depicted in this series. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it felt like a pretty cheesy, true-crime re-enactment, which I supposed is exactly what it was. I don’t think I’d exactly recommend it, but I wouldn’t tell you to keep away.