Today I want to share with you a few of my favourites from the first half of the year.
Adapted to the screen from a comic novel by Charles S. Forsman, this drama follows the misadventures of two 17 year-olds, James and Alyssa, as they run away together. Alyssia is a brat from a shitty family with deep daddy issues who is drawn to a blank, bland James who is a self described psychopath.
The End of the F***ing World (Netflix, 2017)
Alyssia wants to be the centre of somebody’s world and James wants somebody to kill–God, dark comedies have my heart– so we have the beginnings of a very modern love tragedy. The show has 8 episodes, each an average of 20 minutes long and ropes in themes of not only family and young love but sprinkles murder, cover ups and manhunts to make things electric. In the end we see these kids, specifically James, bloom into selfless young people who have a deeper understanding of a darker, real world away from their fantasy one. Not many people get to see that so young.
Atlanta: Robbin’ Season
It is easy for sophomore seasons of TV shows to crash and burn (ahem-ahem, Westwold) in that they feel like completely different things than the first time round and not in a good way, but Atlanta gave me hope. For Robbin’ Season the granular day-to-day explorations from season 1 are less light and more dire and the characters seem to be inhabiting a darker space now, I mean the opening sequence alone set the stage for the 10 episodes to come, but the offbeat comedy is still here. The series got weirder and more personal, focusing on each character in specific episodes like: dealing with Paper Boi’s issues with fame, Darius’ daddy issues, Zan’s fear of being stuck in Earn’s world and for Earn, the fear of being left high and dry by his only income source, Paper Boi. All these episodes are layered with so much social commentary– Earn’s inability to spend that $100 bill and Drake’s party though!– that if you don’t pause from laughing you miss the real points. No other show is such a product of our time to me like Atlanta is right now.
The Americans, season 6
First off, The Americans series finale was the most satisfying ending to a TV show since like, ever. Suspense galore.
The Americans (FOX, 2018).
That 11-minute confrontation between FBI agent Stan and the Jennings, his Russian spy neighbours, was worth the six year wait, I tell you no lies; Paige finding out who her parents reeeeally are at the very end was priceless; Henry never ever getting the full truth like that was heartbreaking; Elizabeth’s slow denial-deep nightmare and her awakening, joining Philip’s depression (whose by the way, one great moment for me was the sarcasm in his voice when he told his daughter, “no, I want you to come at me and hit me and I’ll be okay.”) were all perfectly timed. We watched this family live a lie for so long and their unravelling over the past six years was slow, pure genius that I think more people should appreciate. The Americans was great TV.
What I like about A Quiet Place is that at its heart it is not about the monsters, the monsters seem to be a physical representation of death for the audiences’ benefit, it’s a story about redemption and family. Guilt for the death of a child hangs over the entire film until it is forgiven at the very end through sacrifice. The acts of rebellion by one child contrasts with the extreme fear from another and how each parent tries to teach each to survive was the centre of the film and I loved that. A Quiet Place like, Get Out has found that the secret to a great horror film is not really the monsters but the social issues of the people who are fighting the monsters.
Matilda Lutz in Revenge (2017).
Revenge is a French-American film that mixes the horror and violence of rape with the gruesome acts of retribution by its survivor; this is the perfect film for the #MeToo era. When a pretty all-American girl is violated by her boyfriend and his two friends in different by no less cruel ways, she goes on a revenge hunt to kill them all through a desert chase. The movie has this really intense deep and fierce colour scheme and style that suits the copious amounts of blood and pain and mutilation that we see on screen. Revenge was just pure enjoyable magnificent satisfaction for me to watch.
Every Frame a Painting and Lessons from the Screenplay
Every Frame a Painting arguably started the YouTube trend of analysing movie techniques and plot/character motivations before anybody else thought to and personally, I don’t think anyone has yet to come close to outdoing it. If you love film beyond the watching of it, check out this channel. There is an episode where Tony breaks down how Bong Joon-ho’s, Memories of Murder blocks a scene with an ensemble cast for emphasis, simple as it was it blew my mind, or how important Edgar Wright’s visual comedy is to film, or how the Coen brothers edit in time. Tony doesn’t have more than 28 videos on his channel (he officially retired Every Frame a Painting in 2017) but his videos are still reference pieces for anyone who wants to understand the intricacies of a film scene or a design cue.
Lessons from the Screenplay got me from its breakdown of Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for, The Social Network. This channel’s videos are 10-20 minute visual essays that breakdown film exclusively though its script. Turns out everything you need to know about a film is in its script. It is because of this channel why I started reading the screenplays of my favorite films then watching the movie or vice versa and somehow I found out what good acting really looked like this way.
Let Me Explain
For this channel a funny as hell guy breaks down Netflix series, films and cinematic releases in smart, brutal and satisfying ways with spoilers thrown left, right and centre. Don’t watch Let Me Explain unless you have already watched the movie/TV show, or you will be sorry.
Kingston Noir by Colin Channer
Kingston Noir by Colin Channer (Akashic Books, 2012).
This is a collection of 11 short crime fiction pieces written by Jamaican authors or authors of Jamaican heritage. The work has been praised for shedding light on the glossy sun, sea, spliff smoking, irie vibe that Jamaica is often advertised to be. Personally, out of the 11 there are 3 good stories to me and an honourable mention. You can read the entire collection, here: [epub, pdf].
The book is broken down into different sections. Part 1 focuses mostly on a very gritty Jamaica seen from an outsider’s POV. The best story here is, ‘The White Gyal With The Camera’ written by Kei Miller in simple prose that is pretty self explanatory in that a white girl goes into a ghetto with a camera and is jolted with a slap of reality in the end. An honourable mention here is, ‘Tomcat Beretta’ by Patricia Powell which reads like a Hemingway story to me minus the satisfying ending.
In part 2, a stand out is Marlon James’ ‘Immaculate,’ a tale that made me realize how talented of an author he is. James goes from smashing the idealised hopes that girls at Immaculate Conception High School have with the investigation of a missing classmate, the doctor who tries to fix our nasty, segregated system of power and immorality, and the desperate mother who turns her back so willingly, with brutally funny dialogue. A bit too long and bloated in parts but overall a very well written piece.
Part 3 often explained someone’s story through a narrator who is in a place of acceptance and produced my favourite from the book, ‘Sunrise’ by Chris Abani. In this story a mother reflects on the upbringing of her daughter in a community where choices are an illusion. Kingston Noir gave me good set of fiction and I am grateful that I was finally able to find work from Jamaican authors that had such variety. Noir has definitely opened my appetite to read and support more of our own. –Bless.
[cover art by: Shari Erickson, Seagrape Shade]