Saturday 29 February 2020

Flavours of the Month: February 2020...

The trial of the century, a "dangerous" film, and on the limit at 200mph is just some of what has been setting the tone of my February 2020...

Click "READ MORE" below to see this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...


South Park: Seasons 20 & 21 - rewatching the 2016 and 2017 seasons on Netflix. Season 20 gets off to a strong start, but the continuing story which expands across the whole ten episodes inevitably traps the narrative within limited confines and leaves us going round in circles on a foundation that's wearing thin. Season 21, conversely, finds a far better balance of continuing elements (e.g. Cartman & Heidi's relationship, Mr Garrison as President etc) while allowing each episode to stand alone with its own contained story, which meant a broader range of topics could be tackled and not get drawn-out too long.

The People vs O.J. Simpson - catching up on this 2016 mini-series, detailing the events surrounding the murder trial which saw O.J. Simpson as the prime and only suspect. Seeing how facts were pushed aside in favour of 'telling a new story' in the wake of prior and separate injustices, and how the case was manipulated and mutilated into something else entirely (by lawyers, by the media, by social tensions) certainly makes the blood boil ... all the more so when it seems we've not really come all that far in the past 25 years. The writing and performances shine brightly, with deep examinations of the key players proving to be as involving as the central case is gripping (even when you already know the verdict). Developed and co-written by the guys behind films such as Ed Wood, The People vs Larry Flynt, and My Name Is Dolemite, this show had me hooked from the first episode and I blasted through all 10 episodes in three days.

Joker (Blu-Ray) - what more can really be said about the film that hasn't already been expressed? Phoenix's performance, the script, the direction, the cinematography, the score, the sleazy 1981 New York (as Gotham) vibe etc are all great. It's quite bizarre that there were some critics who slammed the movie as being 'incendiary' and 'dangerous', a criticism that was laughable when the film was first released and is even more idiotic now. It's even more galling that there were 'professional journalists' out there proudly proclaiming they had no intention of watching the film and that you shouldn't either (Mary Whitehouse, anyone?) Fortunately, I was able to view the entire film and not turn into a drooling maniac rioting on the streets (just like everyone else was able to do). It's even stranger that these same sniffy critics dissed the movie for sympathising with its main character - but there's a vast yawning chasm of difference between sympathising and celebrating (not that these sniffy critics seem to realise). I mean, golly, how dare a film sympathise with a character who is severely mentally ill, shunned and mocked by society, abandoned by the system, and has a history of brutal physical abuse from their childhood only to then be shaped into a monster. Shock and indeed horror, let me get to Twitter to signal my virtue and slosh the foam bubbling from my mouth onto my battered keyboard. The movie makes it abundantly clear that it is telling a story, not of celebration or inspiration, but of tragedy.

Inside Number 9: Series 5 - Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's continually surprising anthology series returns. One of the great things about the format - each episode is a different story set inside a 'number 9' (be it a house, flat, room etc) - is the amount of flexibility it affords the storytellers in style, tone, genre and so much more. The second episode of this latest series was a particularly welcome surprise for fans of one of the creators' previous projects.

Intelligence: Series 1 - created and written by Nick Mohammed (who also co-stars), Sky One's workplace sitcom is set in GCHQ, the home of the UK's centre for cyber security, as an American from the NSA (played by David Schwimmer) is brought in to act as a liason while inevitably rubbing up the wrong way with the stiff upper lips and social awkwardness of the Brits. Really enjoyable and well worth checking out.

Formula 1 Drive To Survive: Season 2 - being a big fan of Formula 1, the return of Netflix's behind the scenes documentary series is very welcome. Uncensored and with a level of access behind closed doors that you don't get during the season normally, it makes for eye opening and involving viewing. As with the first season, the way the show is pieced together is mightily impressive not only from the standpoint of shepherding such a vast amount of footage but also from a storytelling perspective as the ups-and-downs of teams and drivers are charted throughout the season.


Chromatics/Johnny Jewel "Windswept"

Rammstein "Auslander", "Deutschland", "Radio" - I'd known a new album was coming, but had no idea it came out several months ago! I feel like Brodie Bruce from Mallrats would have something to say to me about where my 'pulse finger' is.

Green Day "Father Of All..." - after 2016's vibrant and on-the-pulse "Revolution Radio", comes the new album, which unfortunately lacks the same oomph of its predecessor. After four years of Trump one might have expected something along the lines of 'American Idiot Part II', but the band have gone in the opposite direction it seems. The 1960s pop vibe sometimes works, but tracks like 'Meet Me On The Roof' and 'Stab You In The Heart' feel throwaway alongside more pointed cuts like 'Oh Yeah!', 'Take The Money And Crawl', 'Junkies On A High', or 'Sugar Youth'. At a rather brief 26 minutes (!!!) it rocks up, has its fun, and jogs on pretty quick, but you can't help but yearn for a harder edge that would've lingered more effectively once it has breezed on by.

Hildur Guðnadóttir "Main Theme" and "Bathroom Dance" - the Oscar winning score for Joker is superb, but also illustrates that the film is absolutely not a celebration. No, Joker is a tragedy, and this score encapsulates that perfectly.

Ringo Deathstarr "God Help The Ones You Love"

Sisters of Mercy "Vision Thing"


"Mindhunter" by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker - the true crime book that inspired the highly regarded Netflix drama series. It's not a read for the faint of heart or squeamish as the descriptions of real crimes are brutally honest, that's for sure, but this inside look at how the FBI developed behaviourial science in order to better profile and catch serial killers (a term that didn't previously exist) is utterly captivating.

For Want Of A Nail - this month saw the online release of the short film I wrote which was inspired by my experiences with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Coordinated with OCD Action's "Week of Action", it's been a flurry of press releases, social media activity, and interviews as we enact a new stage of audience engagement with the FWOAN project.

Red Dead Redemption 2 (Xbox One) - it's been over a year since I last ventured into the wild west, and having polished off Sniper Elite 4 it felt like a good time to dip my toe back in. I've been wanting to replay some of the missions, but would need to get back up to speed again on the myriad controls. A new addition since I last played has been 'photo mode', which allows you to much more freely take pictures in-game and edit them on-the-fly. It's a nifty little tool that's grabbed the attention of my creative juices.

No comments: