Press F To Pay Respects – Horror and Technology – https://t.co/9Ca50F7B8A
My first article for Haunt Jaunts.
Press F To Pay Respects – Horror and Technology – https://t.co/9Ca50F7B8A
My first article for Haunt Jaunts.
Here’s some thoughts about what I’ve been watching:
Goliath, Amazon Prime.
Two seasons with Billy Bob Thornton in a show created by David E Kelley. The latter created Ally MacBeal and Boston Legal, which were crisp, entertaining and arch legal dramas. Here the combination of the two talents has led to sixteen episodes of a man’s slow crawl from exile and the forces of antagonism he faces both within and without. The dialogue is great, and it’s all performed with genuine verve and insight. Yet for all the quality which lends itself to reserve, there’s a gleeful invention and boldness of execution which reveals some disturbing and intense scenes throughout the show. By the end of season two, you’ll never hear the H R Puffnstuff theme tune in the same way.
Thornton is one of my favourite actors. He carries a mercurial ability to inhabit space and demonstrate a consistent, wounded masculinity alongside the practiced and insightful intelligence which doesn’t shield him from his own demons.
I hope there’s a third season.
Enjoyable but not as good as the first one. I wonder if there’s a market in making trailers for films which don’t exist. I felt I saw all the big moments in the trailer and wasn’t given anything for my tickets investment. The Domino sequences were remarkable, Final Destination style chains of coincidence which are a visual delight.
A cell of jihadists bumble through training, planning and execution of an attack in the UK. It’s hilarious, warm and insightful even as it swandives into a third act of unbearable tension between comedic moments of shock and disbelief.
It’s a harsh, raw horror movie and the internal, emotional story resonates with primal, chilling refrains as it descends into chaos and madness.
Its A Wonderful Life
Yes it’s a Christmas film but the central conceit resonates with me, and it came up as a recommendation. What a man contributes, and how it seems menial and disposable but actually the smallest gestures touch lives and matter. Some films are timeless and I think this is one of them.
Tom Wolfe said non fiction is more difficult to write than fiction because fiction has to make sense. Here is a dizzying cheese dream of a crime and it’s all true. Fantastic and full of reversals yet suffused with a humane strangeness.
Game of Thrones – season 7, episode 1.
I have been thinking about my youth and how I was mocked for my love of comics and pop culture, pilgrimages to Norwich and Abstract Sprocket (where i had a pull list every month), permanent residence in the fantasy, science fiction and horror sections of the library. I was happy and remain so, but it’s odd to see how such things as Game of Thrones, the MCU and DCU dominate the media now.
No, this isn’t me grumbling because what was cool and exclusive, is now worn by everyone and it’s lovely. Sure, I wish there was as much focus on original, non-superhero content but they’re our mythology now and sometimes we need to tap into it. Stories are how we figure things out, a storehouse for knowledge we don’t need to carry inside our heads but find useful to learn from.
In a thousand years, will people be arguing over the one true Spider-Man?
Anyway, Game of Thrones is fantastic television. It’s been six years since the last book, and no, I am not hassling GRRM for another one, he’s enjoying himself and life, like art is about enjoyment. I wouldn’t be putting so much into this if I didn’t and he’s been doing it far longer than I have.
Hannibal – Seasons 1 to 3.
Mads Mikkelsen is the perfect Hannibal. I also want his tailor’s number. Bryan Fuller makes shows which are gorgeous, disturbing and chilled to perfection and although this was cancelled, the hope of a return stirs my bones a little. I want to see Clarice Starling again, although Jodie Foster and Hopkins are only a dvd away, but Fuller’s take on it would be interesting, wouldn’t it?
True Detective, season 1.
There was no season 2. It was a cheese-fuelled hallucination and too ambitious for it’s own good. The first season was brutal, elegiac and unafraid of getting up close and personal with the roots of masculine duty and identity. I wrote so much crime fiction inspired by it which seldom saw the light of day as it was too obviously influenced by it.
Rick and Morty. Season 1 – 2.
It’s an instant pick me up, scabrous, clever and humane at the most surprising junctures, plus it’s Dan Harmon, what can you say?
Preacher season 1 -2
The comic book is one of my favourite series. Ever. Sod your JLA, I will choose the panel where Jesse has tears down his cheeks and says ‘sweet lord, don’t let me be dreaming’ because there’s been women I’ve thought that about. I am enjoying the tv show.
American Gods season 1.
It’s Bryan Fuller’s adaptation of a Neil Gaiman book, with Ian McShane and Gillian Andersen, why wouldn’t I watch it?
I still have Love, House of Cards and a queue on Netflix which makes me question my enthusiasm, but yes documentaries count as research, so there.
Now, I read more than I watch and I suppose I should post what I am reading. I try not to think about it because it frightens me haha.
BOOK OF 2016:
I read a lot, and of the books I’ve read that have been released this year, there are two that I felt warranted particular mention.
THE FIREMAN by JOE HILL.
I have this on audiobook and on the Kindle. Joe Hill has been a writer whose work I will always gravitate towards. He has a powerful voice, manages to combine science fiction, horror and fantasy concepts aligned to strong characterisation, a lovely tone, a wry sense of humour and an earnestness that endears me to anything he puts his name to. The Fireman was not my favourite Joe Hill, that honour probably goes to NOS4R2 but of the books in 2016, this is one that I return to, and find something different each time. In it’s lead Harper, he shows that a protagonist can have doubts and flaws, and can pursue their desire without losing their humanity or morality. The central conceit of the spore that causes spontaneous human combustion is wonderfully realised and the book moves towards a clear-eyed assessment of how people behave in a crisis, and within a group. Some of them become monstrous, whilst others show courage and hope in a situation that strains the capability to raise it. I found myself relating to John Rookwood, the fireman of the title and its a book I have returned to, throughout the year, and found new insights within it.
THE GIRLS by EMMA CLINE.
This is a deceptive book, it captures the ugliness of cult-related behaviour, the rebellion of teenage girls and the cumulative damage of history on the psyche. Ostensibly a retelling of the Charles Manson story from a peripheral perspective, it is a book that took my breath away. It seethes with a clear-eyed, raw honesty and the subtlety of Cline’s prose is that she takes you by the hand into some dark places and you go willingly, before realising that it’s a deeply uncomfortable book awash with ambiguities, and all the more powerful for how spare the prose gets, only to explode into washes of exquisite prose.
GIRLS ON FIRE by ROBIN WASSERMAN.
This serves in theme as a companion piece to THE GIRLS, although more explicit and raw than the other book. It goes deep into the tormented psyches and social rivalries of a pair of teenage girls, skipping between multiple narratives without losing track of the central themes and story. It is a charged, erotic book without feeling exploitative. It has a feral heart and was all the more beautiful for not skimping on the insights. A gut punch delivered with a kiss and certainly one that stayed with me long after I finished it.
I fell in love with the juxtaposition of the Wild West and its inherent savagery against the slightly decaying high tech amusement and corporate intrigue. The performances heightened the quality of the material, notably Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood who essayed characters of complexity and confusion. It never quite fulfilled its promise but with subsequent seasons, I hope that it develops the narrative into something complex and robust. Certainly it is beautifully shot, edited and handles nudity, sex and violence with a mature eye and a calm hand.
I’ve read several books about Pablo Escobar, and this show manages to juggle the sheer comic book scale villainy of his rise and fall with capturing the humanity of the man, much like Breaking Bad managed with a fictional protagonist. It does this through the sweaters that Pablo wears, which is a lovely visual touch. Season 1 was a touch meandering and ponderous but the second season is all pay off, and intense as anything else I have seen this year.
GAME OF THRONES
Oh do I have to? OK, it’s moved on past the books and it manages to work with the constraints of television to great effect. I won’t join in on the call for GRRM to finish the books, they’re massive pieces of work and also he’s not anyone’s bitch, as Neil Gaiman said to great acclaim. Still brilliant, and event television for me. Winter Is Coming, and it’s having a fine time getting there.
It’s had a hard fight getting to the screen but it revelled in it’s underdog status to become the highest grossing superhero movie of all time. Well, at least until M B BLISSETT: CYNICAL ROMANTIC ENGLISHMAN makes its debut, but until then, I loved this film. Breaking the fourth wall, consistently funny and made the use of its limitations to great effect. Ryan Reynolds has been absolved of Green Lantern related sins forever.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
It’s quintessential Tarantino. Take that as you will.
A simple, claustrophobic thriller that makes the best use of darkness and a limited setting. It ratchets up the tension to almost unbearable levels and essays itself in a bravura performance by Stephen Lang.
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
I won’t spoil it for you but it was a fantastic thriller that again makes the use of a closed setting and hammers you with it.
CHILDISH GAMBINO – AWAKEN, MY LOVE
A late and overpowering contender in 2016, it is rooted in the socially conscious, dirty soul of the 70s with swooning vocals, sensual, heady instrumentation and a boldness that grabs you by the heart and crotch at the same time. Like being stoned on heartbreak and passion, this album has demanded repeated listening.
Share your highlights in the comments below.
Terry Wogan doing the Eurovision Song Contest remained one of the comedic highlights of what was otherwise blood-freezingly awful television, especially in the later years when the block voting and nepotism inspired a sarcasm and disbelief that was hidden behind an impeccably smooth and professional delivery. This was one of the best interviews he did, where he allows Icke to present his message whilst delivering the ultimate put down when he leans forward and says..well, I won’t spoil it for you.
Jessica Jones –
It’s much better than Daredevil because it’s obligations to continuity are slight, so it’s allowed to tell a story that’s ostensibly about obsession, autonomy, guilt and grief. It also has some bits that made me cringe a little but it’s all written and performed with so much energy and sincerity that it proved perfectly beguiling. David Tennant is incredible in it, demonstrating a corrosive charisma and later on, showing the damage that made him that way. Krysten Ritter radiates a wounded beauty, and although for television, there is still a reticence to show sex and sexuality in a way that’s honest and untitillating, the central relationship between Jones and Cage is genuinely arousing.
In a saner world, Pablo Escobar would have had to make his money smuggling exotic animals. Instead, he built a terrible and massive empire smuggling drugs across the border to the US. Narcos is uncompromising and brilliant television, in that the most outlandish actions that Escobar took to maintain and advance his position actually happened. Underpinned by great performances, a willingness to show his actions without judgement and an honest appraisal of how difficult it was to form a case and prosecute him, Narcos was fantastic television.
A tragic, slow burning epic where the sins of the past scar the present and a family are torn apart by the revenge of the exiled eldest son. Beautifully filmed, humane and yet still glittering with the greasy allure of good noir. The performance of Ben Mendelsohn is a stand out although everyone in this cast is top of their game.
Making of A Murderer/The Jinx
I’ve not really dabbled with crime fiction, although I read a lot of it. True crime has a wrenching bleakness to it that I find mesmerising. Lots of overweight people sat at kitchen tables, staring into the middle distance trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t. Making of A Murderer guarantees that if I am ever driving through certain parts of the US, that I have a lawyer on speed dial and The Jinx showed what damage a single man can do, and how so often luck and investigative flaws can allow a sizeable amount of horror to occur. Making Of A Murderer is fantastic, compelling television and it’s been inspirational in the flash fiction because as much as we expect criminals to make choices that benefit themselves, there’s something truly frightening about law enforcement coming down from the moral high ground to wallow in the dirt.
A mockumentary that captures a raw unease and sense of dread whilst using a spare almost dogme approach. It tells of a visit to a religious commune isolated by choice and the resulting tragedy.
Orange is the new black
I love this show. Humane, funny and with a good edge to it. It’s a masterclass in showing women as they are not as a platonic ideal. My favourite character is Crazy Eyes who pushes through to become an example of pure id leavened by an unrestrained love and passion for life and people.
House of cards
I loved the original and it’s adaptation to Washington is sublime. The Shakespearean relationship at its centre is glacial and elegantly phrased yet sourced in a genuine love between two ruthless people.