May Watchlist

I still haven’t been back to the cinema, but in a couple of weeks once my second jab takes full effect, I’d love to see the big screen again. Meanwhile here’s what I’ve been watching this month…

Binge-Worthy TV

I watched all of The Pact on BBC1, but it wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad, just full of holes.

I was, however, recommended Innocent on ITV, and over the past two nights have watched the four episodes of the first series – it’s got Hermione Norris – it has to be good. And it was – so I have series 2 to look forward to now.

The programme I’ve most enjoyed this month was truly inspirational… It’s The Great British Photography Challenge on BBC4, in which six different photographers are mentored and put through their paces by Rankin in assignments designed to take them out of their comfort zones over four weeks. Unlike all the other formats, no-one goes home, but there will be a winner in the final show in which they’ll each exhibit their best 15 pictures. In the first episode they had a smartphone challenge on Brighton Beach, a wildlife masterclass with Chris Packham in the New Forest, and a quick photoshoot with Anna Friel. Maybe a comedian sidekick would have made the show zingier, but I just enjoyed seeing their efforts and Rankin and his colleagues’ feedback, and of course picking up as many good tips as I can to improve my own meagre photography talents.

Big Screen on the Small Screen

I only managed to watch seven films this month – only 3 online, four were actual DVDs! They ranged from truly superb to OK. So let’s work up from the bottom:

  • Stowaway (2021, Netflix) – starring Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim and Shamier Anderson as the accidental stowaway on a mission to Mars. Having an extra body on board affects all the mission parameters – fuel use, oxygen generation and more – it’s a real dilemma for the Captain played by Toni Collette. Anna Kendrick’s perky doctor sticks up for the interloper. It’s a balloon debate… nuff said. It was a bit claustrophobic to watch, and the artificial gravity made it feel unreal, strangely. (OK)
  • Joy (2016, DVD) – Starring Jennifer Lawrence, with Robert de Niro, Bradley Cooper and Isabella Rossellini. Lawrence excels as the single mom who has a plan to take her family up in the world through her invention of a super-mop. De Niro is her dad, Rossellini is his rich widow girlfriend who finances Joy’s invention. Bradley Cooper is the head of the TV Sales channel that takes the mop on. No denying Lawrence’s grit, but this domestic drama was a bit ordinary for the most part. (OK+)
  • Absolutely Anything (2015, DVD) – starring Simon Pegg, with Kate Beckinsale, Sanjeev Bhaskar and the voices of all the surviving Pythons as aliens plus Robin Williams as the dog. The alien galactic council is deciding whether to save or destroy the Earth. They’ll do it by picking a random person and giving him the power to do absolutely anything and see whether he does good things or bad. That’s Pegg, a nerdy teacher, who is in love with his neighbour Beckinsale and confides in his best mate and fellow teacher Bhaskar. You can guess what happens – it’s funny, hugely enjoyable and has a lovely cameo from Eddie Izzard as the headmaster. It truly comes to life once Pegg gives his dog the power of speech. It was also lovely to hear the Pythons voices, and the film was directed by Terry Jones. I enjoyed this comedy and would happily watch it again. (EX)
  • Poor Cow (1967, DVD) – I’ve been reading Nell Dunn’s books featuring her friend Joy as Josie recently alongside Dunn’s memoir of her friend. The film of the amazing Poor Cow (reviewed here) was directed by Ken Loach, and starred Carol White of Kathy Come Home fame alongside Terence Stamp who gave it the big-name allure. Personally, I preferred the book which was much funnier, but it was fascinating to see the film, which has Loach’s signature style. The extras were fascinating in particular. (EX)
  • Tyrannosaur (2011, DVD) – Directed by Paddy Considine and starring Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman, with Eddie Marsan. Mullan is widower Joseph from the awful Council estate, a man full of anger. Colman is Hannah, a good Christian woman who runs a charity shop and is unhappily married to Marsan. When Joseph runs into her shop to hide, they begin a friendship… Oh my, this is a bleak film, totally gripping, very sad and real (and not one for dog lovers). (EX+)
  • Rocketman (2019, Netflix) – starring Taron Egerton as Elton John and Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin. What a refreshing film this was! So much better than Bohemian Rhapsody. The way they blended Elton in rehab in his devil costume with fantasy flashbacks, with his life story was superbly done. It had its tongue firmly in its cheek, and the real Elton was involved too. Egerton was simply amazing. I will be rewatching this film for sure and I think it may be my favourite rock biopic now! (EX++)

Film of the Month

Nomadland was the first film I watched this month, and it deserves all the plaudits already received and more. It’s on Disney+ where I watched it, but it’s now back on the big screen all around the country.

It is the story of widow Fern who, jobless, sells up her house to live in her van and join the travelling community moving around the USA. Zhao’s film has a reportage feel to it, capturing the lives of this group of people in a semi-documentary style, alongside following Fern’s story as she joins the community and becomes an established member. The film also features several real travellers who appear as fictionalised versions of themselves. The landscapes of the wide-open spaces are amazing, contrasting with the few scenes set inside houses. Of course, Frances McDormand is stunningly good. (SUPERB!)

I’ve now bought Jessica Bruder’s 2017 non-fiction book which inspired the film to read.

What’s been the best thing you’ve watched this month?

7 thoughts on “May Watchlist

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I have yet to see Nomadland, but I highly recommend Zhao’s previous film, The Rider.

  2. Laura says:

    I had a lot of Thoughts on Stowaway. Can’t discuss without spoilers but I thought it was only a few tweaks away from being a really good film, rather than an intelligent but unsatisfying one!

  3. Calmgrove says:

    I also enjoyed the first Rankin programme, feeling that this is a fresh way to reinvigorate the now tired formula put out by GBBO only to be copied for painting, sewing, make-up, Lego building, shed construction and who knows what else. Yes, there’s a winner but there’s none of this timewasting “And the person going home this week is …”; informative, entertaining and, dare I say, uplifting. We’ve also been enjoying “I Can See Your Voice”, corny as hell even if not uplifting!

    A shout out for Jamie Bell in Rocketman, it took me half the movie to recognise him but I thought he was the perfect foil to Egerton’s wonderfully OTT performance.

  4. A Life in Books says:

    I thought about watching Tyrannosaur but the helpful synopsis with its mention of the dog put me off. Thanks for the heads up with The Innocent. I’m a keen Hermione Norris fan. The best thing I’ve watched recently was The Investigation on BBC4. A Danish slice of true crime about the notorious submarine murder. Highly recommended – very thoughtful, sensitive piece of drama.

  5. JacquiWine says:

    Just seconding Susan’s recommendation of The Investigation, which is notable for its lack of sensationalism around a truly horrific crime. I don’t know if you’ve seen either A Hijacking or A War, but they were made by the same director, Tobias Lindholm. Definitely recommended if you haven’t. Plus, you’ll recognise some the actors from other Danish TV productions, if you’re a fan!

    As for The Pact, I watched the first episode the other night and found it a bit mixed. Given your ambivalence about the series as a whole, I might give the rest of it a miss. Thanks!

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