Book Review – The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

This may not have been a book I would ordinarily have chosen and I confess, I hadn’t even heard of it before it was announced that it was to be made in to a film, but having just finished the final page today, I’m thrilled that I’ve discovered, not just a superb novel, but also a writer whose other work is now firmly on my must read list.

The Power of the Dog is set in the world of the American West, specifically Montana in 1925, where the Burbank family are one of the most successful and indeed wealthy, ranching families in the area. With the parents having moved to a comfortable retired life in Salt Lake City, the ranch is now run by brothers Phil and George.

They may be only two years apart in age, but they couldn’t be more different, in both looks and temperament. George is stocky and lacking in confidence and conversation and yet is a kind man, who handles the managerial side of the business. Phil, his older brother (albeit by just two years) is described as being tall and slender and whose good looks are matched by his intelligence. Phil was the successful student and has gone on to be the conversationalist, with a sharp mind and the ability, it seems, to be successful at whatever he turns his hand to doing. He’s an excellent horseman, musician, plays chess, braids his own ropes and prides himself on getting on better with the ranch hands than his brother, choosing to spend time with them in the bunkhouse and recounting stories from 20 years ago when he was young like them. He cannot stand social climbers and will not conform to what society expects from a man of his wealth and standing.

Yet, it soon becomes clear that while George is kind and considerate of the feelings of others, Phil is cold and takes immense pleasure in upsetting and emotionally destabilising those around him. He calls his brother Fatso and enjoys the idea that the ranch hands respect him more than George. He is also incredibly prejudiced and his comments and thoughts about people’s race, culture, or sexuality make for uncomfortable reading, but it’s when his brother marries a young widow and she comes to live with them at the ranch that we see just how unpleasant Phil can be. She is not welcome in his home and he is not going to pretend otherwise and it’s clear he’d be overjoyed if there was a way of getting rid of her. Then, when summer arrives, her 16 year-old son Peter comes to stay for the school holidays and thrillingly for the reader, the psychological games of chess step up a level.

I loved Thomas Savage’s writing. It seemed to flow from the page and was so easy to read, but that’s not to say it is a simplistic novel. On the contrary, it’s superbly layered with rich characters, who the reader truly gets to know, through a narrative that shifts to different perspectives. You get to understand who Rose is both before and after she marries George and the emotions she experiences once she arrives as the new Mrs Burbank come vividly to life on the page. It’s also notable that a book written in the 1960s by a male writer does such a fantastic job of creating a very authentic, multi-faceted female character within a male- dominated world.

Peter is also a wonderfully fascinating character, who you find yourself wanting to know more and more about. He’s clearly not your average boy and ironically, despite Phil’s disgust when he sees him, Peter is the one who very likely matches Phil’s sharp mind, absorbing knowledge from his late father’s collection of books, from his studies and from the world around him. They both also play chess, which seems appropriate.

However, at the centre of the book is Phil and he’s such a compelling character and Savage’s writing mines the depths of who he is and why he has chosen the life and mindset he has. Part of the book’s brilliance too, is how it adds in references to people and events that you realise are much more significant the further through the story you are. Is there a reason Phil seems to be fixated on his stories from the past? Are the reasons for Phil’s dreadful personality perhaps more complex than you first thought? Nothing is simple in this novel and I loved that. It made the conclusion all the more satisfying.

It isn’t just the personalities of the main characters that Savage writes about either. There are incidental personalities who drift in and out, but who are still very realised, whether the older Burbanks, or the son of the Chief, whose land this once was and who is determined to show his son where they once lived. They aren’t a big part of the story, but Savage ensures that you emotionally connect with them in just a short amount of time. Then there are the rich descriptions of the town of Beech, of the stunning landscape, of the weather and how that impacts both the environment and the minds of the characters; you effortlessly picture it all in your mind as you read, even if you’ve never been to anywhere like it and as well as the visuals, Savage makes sound important too, whether the closing of a certain door, or the whistle of a character, or even the use of instruments, they all add to the feeling of uncomfortable tension that fills the Burbank ranch.

This is a fantastic book, which very much deserves your time. You certainly won’t regret immersing yourself in the world Thomas Savage weaves in your imagination.

Thoughts on the upcoming film

THE POWER OF THE DOG: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH as PHIL BURBANK in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Cr. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021

Yes, this is a book review, but I can’t not talk about the upcoming release of the film adaptation, which arrives on Netflix in December, but is already hotly tipped for the awards season and having now read the novel, I’m even more excited for the film. The adaptation has been written and directed by Jane Campion and if anyone can bring to life the world of Savage’s book, it’s her. Perhaps most people know her best for the film The Piano, but my first thoughts when thinking about the style she’ll bring to this story, were of the BBC series Top of The Lake, which captured a mood and atmosphere vital to telling that story and I imagine she’ll do the same for The Power of the Dog.

Not only is their an exciting storyteller at the helm of the project, but her cast is led by one of the finest British actors of any generation, Benedict Cumberbatch and as someone who has been a fan of his work on both stage and screen since I watched him at the National Theatre in 2010, my expectations are sky high for the performance we could see from him as Phil Burbank. I admit, he was in my mind as I read the book, but I could imagine him perfectly inhabiting that person. Few actors have the range needed for a complex character like Phil Burbank and this is absolutely an opportunity for Cumberbatch to add a shiny Oscar statuette to his mantelpiece. This really could be one of his most impactful roles yet.

In the supporting roles are strong talent such as Kirsten Dunst (who I’ve not seen in a really juicy role for years) and Jesse Plemons (who I last saw in Judas and the Black Messiah) and I’ll be excited to see Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter, who I’ve only seen so far as Nightcrawler in the X-Men franchise. It’s also a fantastic film for females behind the camera. As well as Campion writing and directing, Ari Wegner will be in charge of the cinematography, which will be such a key part of this film.

The short teaser for the film has just been released and it’s perfect at conveying the mood and tone of the film without giving anything away to those who haven’t read the book. For those that have, you appreciate the brilliance of such a simple teaser on a different level. It’s actually a lot like the book itself – it has many more layers to it than you may realise.

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage is available at all the usual book stockists, but as this is my blog, I’ll link to my favourite independent bookshop West End Lane Books, which delivers nationally and internationally. Pop in, or just email them what you’re looking for and they’ll do the rest – https://www.welbooks.co.uk

You can watch the teaser trailer for the film here – https://youtu.be/ELvKuuXdfCU

Let’s Talk Line of Duty!

Credit – BBC

Last night saw 12.8 million people tune in to BBC Once for the finale to series 6 of, in my opinion, the best British drama of the last decade, if not longer. Was it the last ever episode? We don’t know and likely won’t know for some time. The BBC has confirmed they’re open for more (and with those ratings who is surprised?!), so we’ll have to see if creator Jed Mercurio feels there’s more story to tell. As I’ve loved this series for years now, I’d been thinking about writing about it and seeing the passionate reaction to last night’s finale on social media, now seems to be the time.

Let’s start with that finale

Expectations v. Reality

Well there’s certainly some strong opinions flying around about this finale, some good, some bad and some wildly over the top in both directions, so I’ll start with my thoughts about how series 6 concluded. I admit, I’d been anticipating a more explosive, shocking ending. That’s largely due to some previous years of the show, where it’s built to a crescendo and really leaned in to those fireworks (think series 3, but more on the previous years later). I’d wondered if one of the mighty trio would die; Steve maybe due to his dependence on drugs causing him to spiral, or Hastings because those higher up the chain wanted him out of the way. Would there be a huge kingpin brought to justice?

The fact none of those things happened did feel underwhelming and yes, disappointing, initially, but the more I think about the ending, the more it actually made sense. I’d have hated one of Arnott, Fleming, or Hastings getting killed for a start, even if it had been great drama, so seeing them all live to fight another day, back together as a team, having started series 6 fractured (Kate having left, Steve feeling bored), was a satisfying final image. They are the heart of this show after all.

(Credit – BBC)

“H” Revealed

As for the identity of “H” not being revealed to be someone higher up the power structure? It does make sense and I think a lot of the disappointment many are feeling comes from the intense media build-up making us lose sight of the storyline. “H” was initially supposedly the ultimate bent copper, controlling all of those below them, but that theory was changed in series 4, when “H” became just one of four senior bent coppers imbedded in the police force to help the OCG achieve its crimes. Whether that change was the best choice, I’m still undecided on, especially on how it seemed tagged on rather than planned, but personally, as soon as “H” became just one of a group, the mythical status of that person diminished. This wasn’t going to be another Keyser Soze. Finding “H” wasn’t going to be the end of the corruption, but instead would cripple the OCG’s influence and ability to influence the police as effectively. It seemed inevitable in a way that if there were corrupt people at the very top, then they’d likely not be brought to justice.

In a way, that’s one way the show could continue – the four foot soldiers and many minions like Ryan Pilkington are now out of the game, so time to focus on getting evidence to bring down those at the very top of the power structure. That would certainly be a huge challenge for Steve, Kate and Ted, especially in light of their weaker status at the end of series 6. Ted could become a private detective, retired from the force, but still determined to help get justice. Kate and Steve would need to navigate the jobs under the watchful eye of people like Carmichael, while perhaps working a side angle under the radar. Plus, who knows what other officers the OCG have blackmail evidence on who may now be called upon. That would all help raise the tension levels and be fantastic to watch unfold.

Credit – BBC

As for the complaints that Buckells was too incompetent to be a criminal mastermind, well he wasn’t meant to be a criminal mastermind. “H” wasn’t the top of the tree and we already knew that. Instead, the other three – Dot Cotton (a truly brilliant character and performance by Craig Parkinson), lawyer Gill Biggeloe and Derek Hilton were arguably all bigger players than him, but they were already gone. Thurwell was also clearly the corrupt cop who helped boost Buckells up the chain early on. As Ted said, Buckells was the last man standing and having the weakest and most easily controlled left was arguably to the OCG’s advantage. I can’t see Buckles putting up much of an argument to anything he was instructed to carry out, can you?

H’s identity also added to the discussion on, as Ted calls it, failing upwards. This happens in every industry – people who aren’t as good as others somehow climb the ladder, likely through who they know, or perhaps perceptions on who is more capable. It’s depressingly true to life. These types of issues have been covered in Line of Duty in the past, most notably series 4’s discussions about sexism affecting job promotion. There was the way Ted approached discussing promotion with both Steve and Kate, with Steve getting a relaxed drink in the pub and Kate getting 5 minutes in the office and then Thandiwe Newton’s interview scene, where she turned the focus on to Ted’s sexism. It was brilliantly handled and raised some very real issues women face in the workplace. In the same way, highlighting how someone as mediocre as Buckells, or indeed Hilton, could become so successful in their career progression strongly suggested more than just corruption pushed them up the ranks.

The easiest money James Nesbitt has ever made?!

I think the biggest surprise for me in the finale wasn’t the identity of H, but the fact we didn’t see James Nesbitt on screen as Thurwell. Is he really dead? I’m still sceptical and if there is more, surely he’d be in line to be in it, having faked his death somehow. That aside, this must be the easiest money James Nesbitt has ever made! A head shot and a couple of photos in holidaywear by a boat. It was certainly a bold move by Jed Mercurio, which did throw me off!

A more realistic, rather than idealistic conclusion?

Are there still corrupt officers at the very top of the police in the world of Line of Duty? Of course! Would I have loved to see those people dragged to justice? Absolutely! We’ve known the now Chief Constable Osborne is corrupt from series one episode one. It’s why Steve joined AC-12 after refusing to falsify his report about the botched operation in the first minutes of the show that cost an innocent man his life. He’s a prime suspect to be one of the ultimate puppeteers working with criminals for his own gain.

Yet, having the show not have an idealistic, Hollywood-style conclusion, with the heroes defeating the ultimate villain, seemed sadly true to life. Those is power protect others in power and sometimes those people are corrupt, or are willing to ignore corruption if it benefits themselves. We see it all the time and the sidelining of someone like Hastings also seemed sadly realistic. Do a good job stopping police corruption, but not too good. The higher the targets of AC-12 became, the more resistance they were likely to face. Did I want them to topple the whole game at the end? Yes, but this ending gives much more to talk about, both in the fictional world and our own.

An ending that leaves the door open for more

Credit – BBC

A lot of people also seem to confuse bad writing with their own disappointment. Just because you’ve been disappointed by the direction of the story, doesn’t necessarily mean the writing is bad. If you step back and look at the scenes in the final episode of Line of Duty, it was fantastically constructed. You just wanted something else to happen.

The other point for me with how series 6 ended is that it managed to end the story, while leaving the door open for more. Writing anything is hard work and crafting an on-going, complex, storyline like that of Line of Duty must take huge amounts of thought and planning by Jed Mercurio. It’s not as if he just flicks a switch and the ideas come. It might takes years for him to feel he has another story to tell with these characters. Equally he might leave it where it is. I’m at least happy that there are options to continue on. The door isn’t slammed shut. All my fingers are crossed for the future.

A decade of superb drama

(C) World Productions – Photographer: Mark Bourdillon

I’ll likely separately consider my favourite Line of Duty moments in another post, but I did want to reflect on the series as a whole, in case this is the end of the road, especially as I’ve seen so many comments that just because the finale was perhaps a bit underwhelming, the whole show is suddenly written off as a waste of time. It’s like Game of Thrones all over again. For me, declaring a decade of drama as rubbish just because you didn’t enjoy the last episode is just ridiculous and here we don’t even know for sure it is even over!

Whether you liked or disliked last night’s finale, Line of Duty is one of, if not the best British drama of the decade, if not longer. It’s consistently delivered engaging, complex stories, unexpected moments and all superbly acted and shot. I missed series one live for reasons that escape me, but the buzz after the first episode of series two aired couldn’t be ignored and I quickly caught up that week. Right from episode one, it’s a series that delivered something different. It kept you on your toes and delivered some of the most shocking moments of any series.

Credit – BBC

It also managed to keep reinventing itself while keeping the focus on catching corrupt officers. Characters were brought in as if they were the going to be the focus, only to be unexpectedly killed off. Series 1 and 2 established that each year would focus on one officer, only for series 3 to upend that pattern by the end of the first episode! Series 3 had you ready for the big name to exit at the end of the opener, only for series 4 to change gear yet again in the final seconds of episode one. It was truly exciting television, which perhaps meant it had set its own bar too high by series 6. We’d been preconditioned to expect shocks.

The series also wasn’t afraid of long scenes that focused on dialogue over action. A 20+ minute scene in an interview room seems much more normal now thanks to Line of Duty and has led to shows like Criminal on Netflix, which takes place in just the interview room, like an intimate stage performance. This could only be a success if the quality of the writing met the ambition and Jed Mercurio ensured that it did. By series 6, we were all excited for the long interview scenes, waiting for the hilariously long beep from the tape recorder.

Credit – BBC

The other essential element for a series structured in the way Line of Duty was written is the quality of the acting. The intelligence and tension of those long scenes only works if the actors are the best at what they do and over the years the series has treated us to some truly superb performances. The core trio of Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar were individually and collectively excellent to watch, Lennie James set the bar in series one for the guest actors, but Keeley Hawes took the series to another level with her portrayal of Lindsay Denton. Was she good? Bad? Somewhere in the middle? You couldn’t pin her down and Hawes set the standard of what Line of Duty could be and was followed by so many fantastic performances – Thandiwe Newton, Daniel Mays, Stephen Graham to name just three.

As for my favourite series of the show? Having rewatched the whole series in full before series 6, it’s still series 3 for me. The first episode is relentless in its tension and twists, it is jam packed with story, it brought back Lindsay Denton, had Craig Parkinson delivering a superb performance as Dot and the finale was ridiculously exciting. I watched that episode after arriving back from NYC, jet-lagged and it delivered the adrenaline shot I needed! Those six episodes can be watched on their own and still be incredibly satisfying.

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So, will we get more Line of Duty? I genuinely can’t decide, but it’s certainly a possibility. Jed Mercurio has already not said it’s a definite no and the BBC have confirmed they’re on board for more. We’ll have to wait and see. I have faith that if it does return Jed Mercurio knows what he’s doing!

I’ll post my favourite Line of Duty moments later in the week, but I’d love to hear yours in the comments.

In the UK, Line of Duty series 1-6 is currently available to stream on BBC iPlayer (Netflix currently only has series 5). If you’re in the USA, I understand that the series is available on Acorn TV and if you’re in Canada, it’s on Hoopla, although I assume international audiences will have to wait a bit for series 6.

My Oscars 2021 Debrief

(Credit – The Academy twitter feed)

So, the Oscars are over for another year (or perhaps 10 months if next year it moves back to February) and as there’s quite a lot of discussion about this year’s ceremony and its winners I thought I’d talk about my own opinions about what worked and what really really didn’t.

Let’s start with the Positives

  • A focus on film making over celebrity

As someone who makes an effort to try and see as many of the films with awards buzz as I can before the awards and make predictions on who will win, rather than who I want to win, I primarily tune in see who the winners are. Will I get most right? What will be a surprise etc and I do this willingly in the early hours of the morning here in the UK. Therefore, I really liked the staging this year. There couldn’t be all the glitz, the large audience, the endless unfunny presenters doing monologues. Instead, the focus was on the art of film making – why the nominees wanted to make movies, what they loved most about their craft and I really enjoyed it, although I can see how for many people it would be boring. Having said that, if you’re only interested in the glitz and spectacle and not on the films nominated, I’m not sure why you’d have been watching this year anyway!

I really liked hearing what inspired the directing nominees (Emerald Fennell at 8 years old wanting to make films about murder cracked me up!), Regina King’s insights in to the screenplay nominees, explanations about how craft awards like sound are so vital to any film. It was an awards show that appealed more to film lovers and it worked for me on that level.

This focus on the art of film over celebrity also carried over in the choice of presenters. Gone were the awkward double acts reading off an autocue. Instead it was people who knew what they were talking about. Plus, with a film like Sound of Metal nominated, I loved Marlee Martin presenting on behalf of the deaf community. It was also fantastic to have Boon Joon Ho live from South Korea to present the Directing prize, in his own language, highlighting that great films and film makers aren’t all Western English speakers. More of that going forward please.

  • The seating arrangements – keep the tables over the endless rows in the Dolby theater

I’m never a fan of the rows upon rows of people at awards shows. It always feels very impersonal and it’s why it annoys me even more that the Golden Globes don’t air here in the UK on television. Their arrangement of having nominees at tables with the cast / film nominees always seems more fun to me and you get to really see who is nominated. This year’s venue of Union Station looked gorgeous and I liked the more intimate staging, almost more like a cabaret club.

  • No crass playing people off stage during speeches

I often think it’s not always the speeches that are cringeworthy but the producers’ choices on who gets to ramble and who gets cut off in seconds. It’s always a hierarchy and often feels very awkward to watch. This year’s decision not to play anyone off meant that we actually had some lovely speeches – Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round movingly spoke about his daughter who had died, Chloe Zhao talked about seeing the goodness in others, Frances McDormand encouraged everyone to go to the cinema to support all of the films when it is safe to do so and some important points were made about gun violence and racism. Perhaps the threat of the looming music causes those dull speeches where people thank everyone they’ve ever met, as they’re scared not to seem rude. These speeches felt more natural and genuine, which made a refreshing change.

  • The humanitarian awards given so much time

Have they done these before? I don’t even remember seeing them, which perhaps shows that they get lost in the bigger shows if they have been there before. Yet, this year, I loved seeing Bryan Cranston with those charity workers who do such vital work and seeing the incredible efforts Tyler Perry makes to help people, as well as his powerful speech, were highlights of the night. Again, it wasn’t about glitz and fame, but about people.

However there were Mistakes too!

  • Rearranging the award order to try and engineer the Hollywood ending for ratings, at the expense of the memory of Chadwick Boseman was shameful

If you read my predictions, you’ll know I wanted Chadwick Boseman to get Best Actor. In my view he was a worthy winner before you factored in the tragic reality of his death. However, I also loved Sir Anthony Hopkins and he too was very deserving based on that stunning performance. It seemed obvious to me, someone who pays more attention to film awards than the average filmgoer, but who isn’t clued in to the detail of the awards circuit voters, that it was a close race between those two actors. Ma Rainey came out months ago and didn’t have as much buzz recently. Plus Hopkins won the BAFTA, which I know many in the US seem to forget exists during awards season. Therefore, when Hopkins was announced as the winner, I wasn’t hugely surprised.

I felt sad that it wasn’t Chadwick, but the big mistake here isn’t on the winner. It’s on the producers of the ceremony who seemed to think they’d be clever and switch the order of the last three awards, to end on Best Actor. I bet they had a montage for Chadwick ready to play and were picturing the Hollywood-style movie ending. Yet, they couldn’t guarantee that result! They don’t know the winners! Yet, they did know that Hopkins wouldn’t be there (he’s 83 years old, there’s a pandemic and he wasn’t even in London to sit in the BFI at 4 am even if he wanted to – although I’m now hearing Olivia Colman was meant to accept for him if he won, so that’s another producing mistake if true).

Taking such a risk when it wasn’t a certainty seemed ridiculous to me and a huge insult to Chadwick Boseman. They managed to make Chadwick’s lack of recognition more upsetting and insulting, while also tainting Hopkins’ deserved success. Best Picture should be last. That is the final award and had they left the order alone, Nomadland would’ve won and we’d have ended with Frances McDormand howling like a wolf, in honour of their crew member who passed away. This mistake really soured the whole show.

  • Shifting Best Director away from the end

Another complaint on ordering – Best Director was so early in the show! It’s a big award and in the year when two women were nominated, with one hotly tipped to win, it felt even more insulting for it to be moved from its prestige slot at the end to somewhere in the middle.

  • What on earth happened with the In Memorium?!

I understand that time is limited and there sadly seemed to be a lot of people who passed away in the last year, but despite that the In Memorium segment really felt as if it was being played on fast forward. I barely had time to read each name. I also thought the music choice was a bit strange, but perhaps in a year where there’s been so much sadness, playing them out with a more upbeat song saying they’d be remembered was appropriate.

  • I missed the clips

Some years they go over the top with clips, but without them it did feel a bit clinical and flat. I’d have liked to see some concept art on screen for the production design nominees and costume images for that category. Plus, yes there was a film clip for the animated films and the Best Picture moments, but the acting awards should have showed clips of the nominees to highlight their work, especially in a year where all four acting categories were so strong!

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I’m not going to go in to who I wished had won certain awards, as ultimately it becomes subjective and my views on one film aren’t necessarily more right or wrong than someone else’s view on another film (although, go and watch Promising Young Woman immediately if you have’t already!). I will however say that my final prediction scorecard was 17/23, which isn’t too bad!

Overall, it was a night where some very very good films were recognised, some of which I’m sure would’ve been overlooked if this was a normal year, without film schedules changing and an extended awards eligibility period. None of the winners were unworthy for me, which can only be a positive statement of the films we’ve been able to see this awards season (well, I say that having not seen Nomdland yet – it’s out in the UK later this week)!

I’m assuming next year it’ll be back to the packed cinema rows, the cringeworthy comedy and the focus on celebrity over substance, but I really hope that maybe they see that some things this year really did work and for a show that no longer seems to pull in huge ratings whatever they do, I live in hope that some of the focus on the art of film making from the Oscars 2021 is carried forward in to awards shows in the future.

Oscars 2021 – My Predictions

It’s that time of year again where I make my Oscars predictions. It’s certainly been a tough year for film lovers. I’ve been to the cinema once in the last 12 months, which seems crazy, but one positive consequence of the pandemic for the awards season is that films I’m guessing either would have been overlooked by ones that have had to be rescheduled, or which wouldn’t have qualified until 2022 (and risked being forgotten by then) had the Oscars not been pushed back, have received greater recognition. As with previous years, I assume my choices will differ from some of the winner’s at tonight’s awards, so I’ll say what I think will win and also what I would have voted for.

  • Best Picture
(Credit – Universal Pictures)

Despite the UK release for some nominated films coming after the awards season is over, thanks to advance screenings and online film festivals, I’ve been able to see 7 of the 8 nominees for Best Picture. Ironically, the one I’ve not yet seen is the film many say is the frontrunner, Nomadland, so my choice clearly won’t be that! Overall, I’ve enjoyed most of the nominated films. I’ve learnt about history, been confronted with difficult topics and seen some superb performances.

The least enjoyable for me is Mank. The production quality is high, I loved the black and white and the glimpse in to a bygone era, but it was too long and overall was a bit dull for me, almost as if it was a film only people in film will really love and as much as I admire Gary Oldman, he felt miscast in this role. I’ll always enjoy listening to a script from Aaron Sorkin being brought to life and the talented cast of The Trial of the Chicago 7 certainly did it justice. Again, I did think it was too long, but the courtroom scenes were powerful and on a number of occasions left me so angry at the injustices I was seeing. Sound of Metal is a superb film, which highlighted that being deaf is not a disability and showed the richness of the deaf community, while also taking the audience inside what it must be like to lose your hearing, made all the more powerful when music is such a vital part of the person’s life.

The Father was not an easy film to watch, but it was a beautifully moving portrait of the cruelty of dementia, which chooses to bring the viewer inside the experience from the perspective of the person with the illness, rather than their relatives. The cleverness of the script and production design and the incredible central performance make it an unforgettable experience. My knowledge of Black American History is still nowhere near what I’d like it to be (nor is my Black British History, but I’m working on it), which makes films like Judas and the Black Messiah so important in educating us about historical events that shouldn’t be forgotten and which are, frighteningly, still relevant in 2021. I loved the style / directorial choices for this film, which at times reminded me of Martin Scorsese and it’s jam packed with stunning performances.

Then there’s Minari, which I loved both times I watched it. It’s a simple story, but so richly told as we get to know a Korean family trying to make their dreams a reality in the USA. The performances of the ensemble cast are just wonderful and every one of them deserved nominations – also if ever there was proof the Oscars need a Newcomer category, surely Alan Kim is it?! The cinematography was also gorgeous and the score brought everything together for me.

As for my winner – it has to be Promising Young Woman. I haven’t stopped thinking about it in the weeks since I first watched this film. It’s bold, daring, provocative and forces its audience to the confront uncomfortable topics that many try to brush off. The script bounces from genre to genre and yet it doesn’t feel disjointed. The production design brings the hyper-stylised settings to life and the music soundtrack is genius. And then there’s Carey Mulligan (more on that later). Everyone should watch this film.

Will Win – Everyone seems to say Nomadland has this in the bag.

My Choice – Promising Young Woman

  • Directing

I’ve seen 3/5 of these nominees (again due to UK release dates), so for me it’s between Lee Isaac Chung for Minari, who really did a superb job bringing out such wonderful performances and creating such a real family dynamic and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. I’d be happy to see either win, but this is a category that seems to be destined to go to Chloe Zhao for Nomadland. Either way, seeing a woman win and two nominated is at least progress in who is recognised at such events.

Will Win – Chloe Zhao (Nomadland)

My Choice – Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)

  • Best Actress in a Leading Role
(Credit – Focus Features)

Having seen 4/5 nominees, it’s certainly a strong category this year, with all four performances impressing me. As a theatre fan, it’s fantastic to see more people see just how talented Vanessa Kirby is and her performance in Pieces of a Woman drew on her stage background, to bring intensity to the quiet moments, as we watch her character deal with an unimaginable loss. Viola Davis is excellent in every role she takes and Ma Rainey is no exception, although it lost something for me knowing she wasn’t also singing, but that could be because I saw Sharon D Clarke nail the role on stage a few years ago. Andra Day is certainly a name to watch if this is how she starts her feature film career. The United States vs. Billie Holiday makes some questionable choices as a film, but she is simply incredible in this role, immersing herself fully in the woman she was portraying. I’m excited to see what she does next. My vote would however go to Carey Mulligan, as she had an incredibly hard job to do, walking the line of the character of Cassie in Promising Young Woman. It was at least three characters in one person and she keeps them all balanced and pivots so effortlessly between them. Even when she’s cheery to the world, you can feel the weight of her anger underneath. An actress of her versatility is a privilege to watch.

Will Win – I’m really not sure about this at all, which shows how strong this category is. Many say Frances McDormand, but I’ve heard strong support for Viola Davis and Carey Mulligan. I’ll take a risk and say Carey Mulligan.

My Choice – Carey Mulligan

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role
(Credit – Netflix)

Having watched all five performances, in my opinion this is the strongest set of nominees in this category for quite some time. Plus 4/5 are British! Although Gary Oldman is very good in Mank, it didn’t quite work for me (and I’d have swapped him out of this category for someone else). It’s wonderful to see Steven Yeun recognised for his role as the head of the family in Minari. It’s his dream they are pursuing and he conveys the weight of that responsibility so well. Riz Ahmed is superb in Sound of Metal. There’s a point in the film where you forget it’s fiction, as his performance is so rich it could be a documentary following someone who really has lost their hearing. Sir Anthony Hopkins is unforgettable in The Father. It’s seems wrong to say it’s his best work when he’s done so much, but it’s an incredible achievement, as he brings his character’s struggle with dementia to life before our eyes. And then there is Chadwick Boseman, an artist whose work has been wrongly overlooked for years (no nomination for his portrayal of Jackie Robinson in 42 is just one example). He is outstanding in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It’s his film and the depth of emotional power he brings to what is now his last role hits hard. His loss is still hard to accept, when you know he had so many more roles ahead of him. He’s a worthy winner and the tragedy that is his death makes that even more the case.

Will Win – this seems to be close between Chadwick Boseman and Anthony Hopkins. Honestly, both deserve it. I’m going to guess Chadwick Boseman will win, but I won’t be shocked if it goes the other way.

My Choice – Chadwick Boseman. He’s stunning and it’s also right his artistry is recognised.

  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role
(Credit: A24)

All five performances are very very good and I love the variety of films recognised – the Father and Borat in the same category! I hope we see Maria Bakalova in more films, as I’m curious to see her in something a bit less nuts. Amanda Seyfried was very good, but didn’t stand out enough for me. Glenn Close still never winning an Oscar is a crime and although she’s very very good here, I don’t think she’s the best nominee this year. She’s up against Olivia Colman again, who surprised us all by beating Close to the Oscar in 2019, but as fabulous as she is in The Father, the clear winner here for me is Yuh-jung Youn, whose performance in Minari stands out of its strong ensemble cast. I just loved watching her in every single moment.

Will Win – Yuh-jung Youn

My Choice – Yuh-jung Youn

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role
(Credit – Glen Wilson)

Another set of five strong nominees make up the Supporting Actor category. I’d honestly be happy to see any of them win. Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the stand out performances in Trial of the Chicago 7, showing he’s so much more than Borat. Leslie Odom Jr. is very impressive in One Night in Miami and his final vocal performance ensures the film ends on a powerful note (although all 4 of the central performances impressed me in this film). There’s so much soul in Paul Raci’s performance in Sound of Metal. Growing up in a deaf household means he truly understands the deaf community and that depth of real life understanding shines through on screen. It does seem unfair to me to have both actors from Judas and the Black Messiah in this category, as honestly I’d have swapped Gary Oldman out for Lakeith Stanfield for Lead. He plays the struggle his character suffers when straddling the role of friend, but also informant so well, that no matter how angry you are at him, you still feel some sympathy for him, but in the Supporting Role category, it has to be Daniel Kaluuya for me. He’s sensational in this film and commands the screen whenever he’s on it with such a passionate performance.

Will Win – Daniel Kaluuya

My Choice – Daniel Kaluuya

  • Best Adapted Screenplay

I’ve only seen 3/5 films nominated in this category, but for me I’d have to choose The Father. It’s been adapted from the stage play so very well and it’s a much more complex script than it first appears when watching the film. All those seemingly jumbled pieces need to fit together and flow through the story and it really worked for me.

Will Win – I’m assuming it’s between The Father and Nomadland. If Nomadland is winning the top awards, then maybe this will go to The Father.

My Choice – The Father

  • Best Original Screenplay

All five nominees in this category impressed me in different ways and the more original ideas in film we get to see, the better. I’m assuming this will be given to a film that won’t win Best Picture, but that people still want to recognise, so I’m assuming this will be where Emerald Fennell wins. Promising Young Woman is the most original of the scripts for me, so I’ll be very happy if that’s the case.

Will Win – Promising Young Woman

My Choice – Promising Young Woman

  • Best Cinematography

As much as I think the ones I’ve seen are worthy nominees, I can’t help feeling surprised that Minari isn’t included in this category. News of the World pulled off those beautiful sweeping vistas, Mank captures the style of the era brilliantly, despite it not really being my type of film, but the one that stands out for me is Judas and the Black Messiah. I just loved so many of the choices made in the creation of the visual style of this film.

Will Win – Everything seems to suggest this will go to Nomadland. As I’ve not seen it, I can’t really comment.

My Choice – Judas and the Black Messiah

  • Best Production Design

There’s such variety in this category, from the large scale, to the intimate contained story settings. Every nominee works brilliantly at contributing to the success of the film, but for me the one I was most impressed by was The Father. It’s a simple design on the surface, but the sets in that flat had to be so subtly altered over the course of the film in order to disorient the audience just as much as the central character. The film wouldn’t have worked had the production design not been perfect. Yet, I assume the award will go to the larger in scope efforts behind Mank.

Will Win – Mank

My Choice – The Father

  • Best Costume

I’ve not seen all of the nominees in this category, but I’m guessing it’s between Emma (as the Academy seem to love a period costume), or Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. As I’d love to see that film recognised, it gets my vote and I’m guessing more voters might feel that way too.

Will Win – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

My Choice – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling

I’ve no idea who will win this as the makeup for Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy certainly transforms her in to the real life person she’s portraying and from what I’ve seen of the work on Pinocchio that’s very impressive. I’m going to assume that there’s a chance this will be another category where people will recognise Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which seems a fair choice, as Viola Davis’ horse hair wig and her makeup really do help create the character on screen.

Will Win – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

My Choice – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

  • Best Sound

Again, I haven’t seen all of the nominees, but surely this can only go to Sound of Metal? It’s a film all about sound and the lengths the creative team went to in order to capture the sounds in Riz Ahmed’s ear canal to bring the soundscape to life for the audience is hugely impressive.

Will Win – Sound Of Metal

My Choice – Sound of Metal

  • Best Editing

This is another category where all of the nominees that I’ve seen are a key reason why those films are so good, but for me, based on those I’ve seen, it’s between Sound of Metal and The Father.

Will WinI’m not sure. I’ve heard talk about The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Sound of Metal, so I’ll say Sound of Metal

My Choice – The Father

  • Best Visual Effects

This is another category I don’t have a strong opinion on, having not seen all of the nominees, but I was very impressed by the visual trickery on screen in Tenet, which was well worth the cinema trip, made all the more memorable as it was the only one I had in the last twelve months.

Will Win – Tenet

My Choice – Tenet

  • Best Score

Music is such a vital part of any film for me and a great score stands out without taking over. This year I’ve only seen three of the films nominated and for each one, the score was one of the aspects that really stood out. I’m assuming the winner will be Soul, which I can’t believe I haven’t got around to, but I did love the score from Minari.

Will Win – Soul

My Choice – I can’t really say, as I’ve not heard most of them, but I loved Minari’s score!

  • Best Song

I like all of the songs this year, which isn’t always the case. The ones from Judas and the Black Messiah, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and One Night In Miami are my highlights, but I think my choice will match the winner and that’s Leslie Odom Jr’s song Speak Now from One Night In Miami. It’s a gorgeous song and that film deserves to win something.

Will Win – Speak Now (One Night In Miami)

My Choice – Speak Now (One Night In Miami)

……………………………

I haven’t seen enough of the documentary, animated, or film short nominees for me to be able to give any real comments on who I think should win. One year, I’m determined to have seen them all before the Oscars! I have however made some educated guesses, based on things I’ve heard / read for these categories to complete my full set of predictions and generated my scorecard via The Academy’s Twitter account.

If you have any predictions, or strong views on who should win tonight, then let me know in the comments!

If you’re in the UK, the Oscars can be watched live on the Sky Oscars channel (also available via NOW if you’re not a Sky TV customer) from 1 a.m. Monday morning.

Film Review – The Father (2020) – a deeply moving exploration of the cruelty of dementia

One of the two Best Picture nominees not on general release here until after the Oscars, I was thrilled to have a chance to see The Father thanks to the Borderlines Film Festival and it certainly met my high expectations. Adapted from his play, Florian Zeller’s film is a beautiful, if not heart wrenching exploration of the realities of dementia, told through the relationship between a father (Anthony Hopkins) and his daughter (Olivia Colman). Yet, what most impressed and moved me about this film was the way the structure of the film truly gives the viewer an understanding of what having dementia must feel like for the person. It’s easier for us to put ourselves in the shoes of the relative, as it’s either something we’ve experienced, or perhaps fear we’ll experience with our older loved ones and that’s the viewpoint I’m used seeing portrayed on screen.

Yet, Zeller chooses a narrative path that takes the audience inside the lived experience of the titular father. Sometimes it seems as though we’re watching one interaction, only for it to suddenly confuse us, or cause us to question what’s real and what isn’t and to try and fit the puzzle pieces together. It sometimes feels disorienting and confusing, which is exactly how Hopkins’ character must feel, and this makes the film’s impact all the more intense.

There are appearances from some fantastic British actors including Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, Imogen Poots and Mark Gatiss, but the film’s focus is rightly on Hopkins and Colman.

I can’t think of a better British actress for the role of Anne. It’s a character that must feel authentic; as if you could believe you could be her, dealing with such a heartbreaking experience and no other British actress conveys that level of authenticity for me. Colman’s Anne feels like someone you know, or perhaps even yourself and it pulls you in to the story and let’s face it, when Olivia Colman cries, we all cry (or I do anyway).

Yet, this is without question Anthony Hopkins’ film and he is utterly superb. I’m always hesitant to declare something someone’s finest work, but it’s certainly a performance that stays with you long after the film is over. It allows Hopkins to showcase fun, humour, playfulness, anger, nastiness, confusion and sorrow and each one seems effortless to him and it is right that he’s one of the favourites for the Best Actor award next month, despite strong competition. Through his performance you gain a greater understanding of what so many people are going through when they have dementia and the result is an incredibly powerful viewing experience.

Having now seen The Father, I’m also quite surprised there isn’t a Directing Oscar nomination for Zeller, as the directing choices for this film are key to how effectively Hopkins’ character’s mind is conveyed to the audience. Had different decisions been made, the film may not have worked as well as it does. In particular, I loved the way one apartment subtly becomes another through almost identical hallway shots, so much so that you do question if you’re the one who’s confused. Is that room different, or were you just not paying attention? Zeller isn’t afraid of using silence either, in moments where characters are lost in thought, or memory and the choices for the last few minutes are hauntingly beautiful. It certainly doesn’t feel like a directorial film debut for Zeller and I’m glad that as the playwright, he was able to bring his story to life so perfectly for a different medium. Another beautiful element of the film is the score by Ludovico Einaudi. It suits the piece so well, that you take it for granted.

The Father isn’t easy to watch by any means and will no doubt illicit a deeply emotional response from its audience, but it’s a confident, compassionate and important film that helps us understand more deeply the effects of dementia and it deserves all the acclaim it is receiving.

The Father releases in the UK on 11th June 2021.

You can watch the trailer here

Film Review – Promising Young Woman (2020) – Brave, bold, provocative & a film that couldn’t be more timely

There aren’t many films that leave me open-mouthed once, let alone more than once, but Promising Young Woman certainly achieved that when I saw a recent online screening. I knew almost nothing about it beforehand and by the end, it had easily become one of my favourites of this year’s Awards season (although I’ll make a final decision on rankings when I’ve watched them all). Not only that, but it is a film that should be required viewing for all adults.

Without giving too much away, the film centres on 30 year old Cassie (Carey Mulligan), who lives with her parents, works in a coffee shop and inhabits a world of candyfloss pinks and floral prints. Yet, her projected sugary sweet demeanour is a mask, hiding a much darker reality that she keeps hidden from everyone.

(Carey Mulligan as Cassie – Focus Features)

Due to a harrowing event in her past, one which has left her emotionally scarred and which changed the path of her life entirely, Cassie is carrying a huge amount of anger, rage and pain on her shoulders and it is this desire for justice and revenge that is at the heart of the story and keeps you gripped from start to finish, as it takes some unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Carey Mulligan is simply sensational, further demonstrating her incredible versatility as an actress (this role is world’s away from the one she played so wonderfully in the recent The Dig). We see many versions of Cassie during the film and Mulligan handles each one perfectly, whether it’s the cheery woman in colourful put together outfits, singing along to a Paris Hilton song, or the broken, vulnerable woman struggling to look ahead because of the past, or the ruthless woman determined to force people to confront their darker, crueler choices. She balances each persona and skilfully conveys all of the emotions Cassie is feeling in every scene. You can feel the burden that she’s carrying, even when she’s seemingly cheery to the outside world and that’s a testament to Mulligan’s talent.

Becoming the first British woman to be nominated for an Oscar for Directing (and indeed achieving it for her first feature film), is writer, director and producer Emerald Fennell (probably currently best known for playing Camilla in the last two seasons of The Crown) and it’s certainly an impressive project to begin with. Perhaps it’s inevitable that young women like myself have a strong reaction to this film, but its release in the UK couldn’t be more timely, following the recent, passionate calls for greater recognition of the problems of women’s safety and society’s attitudes to the behaviours of men and women and what’s deemed acceptable, or indeed expected. Some may watch this film and think it is trying to be too sensational, but I didn’t think so and that attitude is missing the point of the wider conversations this film should create.

(On set with director Emerald Fennell – Focus Features)

Yes, some of the events in the film are perhaps presented in a way that would never happen in reality, but the difficult truth is that many of them can and indeed do and the question becomes whether we have, as a society, for too long accepted certain things that should’ve been addressed decades ago. This isn’t an anti-men film either and anyone who thinks so is missing the bigger point and I particularly loved the fact Cassie isn’t just determined to confront men on their behaviour. Two of my favourite scenes revolve around her forcing female characters, who through looking the other way she sees as complicit, to face up to the frightening realities of the scenarios they have chosen to ignore.

The script from Fennell accomplishes many different film genres in one story. Some moments you could be watching a traditional romcom, before it pivots in to a darker, more uncomfortable place, before throwing in some truly comedic elements to keep you on your toes and the question hangs over the film as to how it will end. I was certainly rooting for Cassie to find a sense of peace in whatever form that could take and Mulligan certainly deserves to be a frontrunner for awards recognition.

The film’s production design is also a huge asset, creating Cassie’s pink, flowery, hyper-stylised world to the extent that it almost feels too much, while also blending that with the much darker, more dangerous places the film wants to take you, yet presenting these in a way that seem perfectly ordinary, reinforcing the fact that awful things can happen anywhere, even in environments that we all think should be safe. There’s also the brilliant soundtrack, including a take on Britney Spears’ Toxic that couldn’t be more appropriate.

Not everyone will like this film and I imagine some will passionately dislike it, some purely on the basis that it’s made them feel uncomfortable, but I thought it was brilliant and a few weeks on from watching it, I’m still thinking about it. It’s daring, bold, provocative, funny, emotional and disturbing and yet still feels like a balanced narrative. There is no better time for the conversations and debates that it should provoke and I’d encourage everyone to watch it.

Promising Young Woman will be released in the UK on Sky Cinema and NOW (formerly Now TV) on 16th April 2021. If you’re not a Sky TV customer, NOW works like Netflix for Sky TV and Film channels – you can start a free trial and then pay monthly, switching it on and off as you want to without any commitment.

You can watch the trailer here

Oscars 2021 – When & Where to Watch The Nominees in the UK

It’s been a very strange year for film fans and as I write this cinemas here in the UK remain closed, only reopening after this year’s big film awards have been announced and this has had an impact on the access UK film fans have to the nominees this year. Over in the USA, audiences have had an opportunity to see most, if not all, of the nominees by now, whether at movie theatres that remained open for longer than here, or thanks to better on-demand platforms / availability in that market. Here, it’s not as straightforward and the result is that not all of the films will be available prior to the Oscars taking place next month.

However, there are some fantastic films in contention in 2021 and in recent weeks more and more have announced on demand releases in the UK prior to the Academy Awards. In fact, as I write this, it seems that you will be able to watch all but one of the Best Picture nominees before Oscar night. I admit, as a strong supporter of cinema, I’m conflicted about VOD options for big films, but as a one off option for those that are interested in access before awards are handed out, I’m all for it.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to gain access to some preview screenings of some of the films (reviews will start to follow on this blog in coming weeks) and as I make my way through the others available before Oscars night on 25th April, I thought there might be other film fans out there who might find it useful to have a resource to find out when and where all of the Oscar nominees are released here. If there is no price information listed, then the film is free to stream on that service. If I’m aware of there being different platforms with different prices, for the same film, then I’ve included those too. Everything is here, with the exception of Best Song nominees, as those songs can be found and listened to without watching the film.

Right. Let’s get to the films!

  • Judas and the Black Messiah

Nominated for – Best Picture; Actor in a Supporting Role (x2!); Original Screenplay; Cinematography; Original Song

Available to watch – now, on premium on demand services such as Amazon Prime Video, Sky Store, BFI Player and Virgin TV.

  • Promising Young Woman

Nominated for – Best Picture; Directing; Actress in a Leading Role; Original Screenplay; Film Editing

Available to watch – on Sky Cinema / NOW (formerly NOW TV) from 16th April

  • The Trial of the Chicago 7

Nominated for – Best Picture; Actor in a Supporting Role; Original Screenplay; Cinematography; Film Editing; Original Song

Available to watch – now on Netflix

  • Sound of Metal

Nominated for – Best Picture; Actor in a Leading Role; Actor in a Supporting Role; Original Screenplay; Film Editing; Sound

Available to watch – on Amazon Prime from 12th April

  • Mank

Nominated for – Best Picture; Directing; Actor in a Leading Role; Actress in a Supporting Role; Makeup and Hairstyling; Cinematography; Production Design; Sound; Original Score; Costume Design

Available to watch – now on Netflix

  • The Father

Nominated for – Best Picture; Actor in a Leading Role; Actress in a Supporting Role; Adapted Screenplay; Film Editing; Production Design

Available to watch – Available now via the Borderlines Film Festival (£8 / £6 concession). There’s also a scheduled screening via Ourscreen.com for 8th April (£5) (although I haven’t used that site mysOtherwise it’s not out until it arrives in cinemas from 11th June.

  • Minari

Nominated for – Best Picture; Directing; Actor in a Leading Role; Actress in a Supporting Role; Original Screenplay; Original Score

Available to watch – Available now via the Borderlines Film Festival (£8 / £6 concession). Otherwise, it’s scheduled to be from 2nd April on demand (e.g. Curzon Home Cinema etc) and will also get a cinema release).

  • Nomadland

Nominated for – Best Picture; Directing; Actress in a Leading Role; Adapted Screenplay; Cinematography; Film Editing

Available to watch – annoyingly only available on Disney+ from 30th April

  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Nominated for – Actress in a Leading Role; Actor in a Leading Role; Makeup and Hairstyling; Production Design; Costume Design

Available to watch – now on Netflix

  • Another Round

Nominated for – Best Directing; International Feature Film

Available to watch – in cinemas from 25th June

  • The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Nominated for – Best Actress in a Leading Role

Available to watch – now on Sky Cinema / NOW

  • Pieces of a Woman

Nominated for – Best Actress in a Leading Role

Available to watch – now on Netflix

  • One Night in Miami

Nominated for – Best Actor in a Supporting Role; Best Adapted Screenplay; Original Song

Available to Watch – now on Amazon Prime UK

  • Borat Subsequent Movie Film

Nominated for – Best Actress in a Supporting Role; Best Adapted Screenplay

Available to Watch – now on Amazon Prime UK

  • Hillbilly Elegy

Nominated for – Best Actress in a Supporting Role; Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Available to Watch – now on Netflix

  • The White Tiger

Nominated for – Best Adapted Screenplay

Available to Watch – now on Netflix

  • News of the World

Nominated for – Cinematography; Production Design; Sound; Original Score

Available to watch – now on Netflix

  • Da 5 Bloods

Nominated for – Original Score

Available to Watch – now on Netflix

  • Emma

Nominated for – Makeup and Hairstyling; Costume Design

Available to watch – on Sky Cinema / NOW; Amazon Prime UK (£7.99 to buy)

  • Pinocchio

Nominated for – Makeup and Hairstyling; Costume Design

Available to watch – now on BFI Player (rental £4.50) / Curzon Home Cinema (£4.99) / at some point in 2021 on Netflix

  • Tenet

Nominated for – Visual Effects; Production Design

Available to watch – Amazon Prime UK (£4.99 rental)

  • Love and Monsters

Nominated for – Visual Effects

Available to watch – from 14th April on Netflix

  • The Midnight Sky

Nominated for – Visual Effects

Available to watch – now on Netflix

  • Greyhound

Nominated for – Sound

Available to watch – now on AppleTV

  • Mulan

Nominated for – Visual Effects; Costume Design

Available to watch – now on Disney+

  • The One and Only Ivan

Nominated for – Visual Effects

Available to watch – now on Disney+

  • Animated Feature Film Nominees

Soul – (also nominated for Sound & Original Score) – Available now on Disney+

Onward – now on Disney+

Over The Moon – now on Netflix

A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon – now on Amazon Prime UK

Wolfwalkers – now on AppleTV

  • International Feature Film Nominees

Another Round – see above!

Better Days – Amazon Prime UK (rental £3.49)

Collective – Amazon Prime UK (rental £3.49) / BFI Player (rental £4.50) / Curzon Home Cinema (£4.99)

The Man Who Sold His Skin – [no release information as yet]

Quo Vadis, Aida? – Amazon Prime UK (rental £4.49) / Curzon Home Cinema (£4.99)

  • Documentary Feature Nominees

Collective – Amazon Prime UK (rental £3.49) / BFI Player (rental £4.50) / Curzon Home Cinema (£4.99)

Crip Camp – now on Netflix

The Mole Agent – Amazon Prime UK (rental £4.49) / Curzon Home Cinema (£4.99)

My Octopus Teacher – now on Netflix

Time – now on Amazon Prime UK

  • Documentary Short Subject Nominees

Colette – on the Colette DocShort YouTube channel now

A Concerto Is a Conversation – on The New York Times YouTube channel now

Do Not Split – on the Field of Vision YouTube channel now

Hunger Ward – [no release information as yet]

Love Song for Latasha – now on Netflix

  • Live Action Short Film Nominees

Feeling Through – [no release information as yet]

The Letter Room (starring Oscar Isaac) – now on Vimeo (to buy £4.99)

The Present – now on Netflix

Two Distant Strangers – on Netflix from 9th April

White Eye – [no release information as yet]

  • Animated Short Film Nominees

Burrow – now on Disney+

Genius Loci – [no release information as yet]

If Anything Happens I Love You – now on Netflix

Opera – [no release information as yet]

Yes-People – now on Vimeo (rental £1.99)

………………………………..

That’s everything! I’ll try to keep this updated if anything changes and feel free to let me know if you know of any information that I’ve missed.

If you’re interested in reading my thoughts on some of the big nominees, then keep an eye on this blog in the coming weeks. I’ll also post my annual Oscars predictions post nearer to the awards next month.

Now, time to grab the popcorn and get lost in the magic of film!

Oscars 2020 – My Thoughts

I know I’ve left this a little late, but my main reason was my desire to see as many of the nominated films as possible and today was my first opportunity to see Parasite (which has only just been released in the UK this week). More on that film coming up, but I’ll start by saying that, for the most part, it seems that this year’s awards are likely to be largely predictable, especially the acting categories and with only hours to go, the biggest question seems to be whether Parasite can be the first foreign language film to take Best Picture. Is that something the Academy is ready to do? I’m still not sure it is.

Yet, despite a lot of these “predictions” feeling rather predictable, I still wanted to set them out and see how many I get right (or indeed wrong). Full disclosure before I start – I’ve tried to see most of the films, but largely due to some films disappearing within a week from my local cinemas, I’ve not yet see Ford v. Ferrari (aka Le Mans ’66), Pain & Glory and Harriet. I’ve also been unable to see the film shorts, or the documentaries, so I’ll leave those categories out.

Right, that said, here are my thoughts on what I think will win and what I’d have voted for.

  • Best Picture

I’ll start with the big one – Best Picture. Of the eight I’ve seen, I’ve enjoyed most of the nominees this year, although I don’t think it’s as strong a year as other recent ones.

I enjoyed the epic scope of The Irishman, watching these lives over decades and thought Pesci was particularly impressive. It was perhaps 30 minutes too long though. Little Women was a welcome new interpretation of a story most of us have seen at least one version of by now and I enjoyed the way Greta Gerwig chose to move around the timelines here, giving the story a freshness I didn’t expect. It seems to be controversial, but I thought Joker was very good – for me, it was a powerful look at how someone, already vulnerable and in need of support from society, can spiral in to a frightening life. Did I think the violence was glamourised? No. It was far less violent than The Irishman (which was based on real events) and for me it wasn’t aiming to seek sympathy for a criminal; it simply forced me to ask difficult questions about the grey. It stayed with me for a long time afterwards. JoJo Rabbit was a real gem this year; a film you aren’t sure you’ll like, or should even like, but yet is one that becomes so much more than a film mocking Nazis. It’s a beautiful story of friendship, love and kindness conquering hate, which made me feel surprisingly hopeful by the end. 1917 was as powerful, moving and visually impressive as I’d been expecting. The one-shot style didn’t feel like a gimmick and I loved how it highlighted the incredible acts of bravery during WWI, alongside the tragic needless loss of so many young lives.

I didn’t particularly enjoy Marriage Story, despite appreciating the strength of the performances and wasn’t strong enough to win for me. As for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it seems people either love it, or found it rather tedious. I’m in the second group. It was so long (The Irishman felt like a short film compared to this) and not being familiar with the historical events that are changed, it didn’t resonate with me, the way it may do with others.

And so – my winner. Until today I wasn’t sure if there’d be a film this season that would really make me sit up in my chair and take a moment to acknowledge I’d watched something truly special. That changed earlier today, as I walked out of Parasite. I’ll review this separately, but I loved it. Clever, engaging, Shakespearian, filled with humour and darker moments in equal measure and able to convey so much about society and those at the top and the bottom in a way that hit home. For me, it’s the clear Best Picture. Will it win? I’m not so sure.

Will Win: 1917 (unless the Academy are brave and do the right thing)

My Choice: Parasite

  • Best Actor

There’s not too much to say here, as I think the winner is already obvious and in my view, rightfully so. All four (of five) that I’ve seen are very good, although not all would have made my top five. I was particularly impressed with Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes, which I really enjoyed (far more than I expected). I’d also say that, although I didn’t particularly like Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler’s performance was one that I do think deserved to be on this list and Michael B Jordan in Just Mercy should also have been in serious contention too. Yet, it’s ultimately moot, as no one was going to beat Joaquin Phoenix. He’s simply outstanding in Joker. The visual transformation is horrifying, yet it’s also the way he brings that character to life; every mannerism (the way he runs the same, whether or not he’s wearing the clown fit as one example), the different laughs and the sheer raw emotional power he brings to the screen. He’s always been a superb actor and he’s earned this one.

Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix

My Choice: Joaquin Phoenix

  • Best Actress

This seems to be another category where the winner seems all but guaranteed and from the nominees listed, I’ll be happy to see Renee Zellweger win this year. I wasn’t hugely impressed by Judy (perhaps partly due to seeing the play it’s based on End of the Rainbow, which impressed me much more), but she was excellent in this. A close second for me is Charlize Theron in Bombshell. Yet, my biggest issue with Best Actress is that my Best Actress this year isn’t nominated and that’s Alfre Woodard for Clemency, playing a female prison warden of a men’s prison. It’s the performance that has stayed with me and impressed me the most and it’s incredibly disappointing she isn’t nominated.

Will Win: Renee Zellweger

My Choice: Alfre Woodard

  • Best Director

This is a tough one for me. I thought 1917 was terrific and a great achievement by Sam Mendes. Joker is also handled so well by Todd Philips, but for me the winner should be Bong Joon Ho. What he has achieved with Parasite is something very special indeed. This being the Oscars, I’m not sure who’ll win, but I have a feeling it’ll be Tarantino v. Mendes, so I’ll say Tarantino, as lots of Hollywood types seem to be in love with this film.

Will Win: Quentin Tarantino

My Choice: Bong Joon Ho

  • Actor in a Supporting Role

Having seen all five of this performances, none of them really stood out for me to be honest. They were all very good, but again, Jamie Foxx stood out in Just Mercy for me and he wasn’t nominated. It seems clear it’s Brad Pitt’s time to win, which I’m fine with and he was my favourite part of a film I didn’t really like.

Will Win: Brad Pitt

My Choice: Brad Pitt (notable mention for Jamie Foxx)

  • Actress in a Supporting Role
Laura Dern

Again, I’ve seen all four performances and they were all very good, in very different ways. It seems likely Laura Dern will win, but for me the best were Margot Robbie, whose performance in Bombshell really felt real, conveying the awful situations too many women have found themselves in and Scarlett Johansson, who brought humour, fun and a great deal of emotion to JoJo Rabbit. It’s close, but I’d go with Johansson.

Will Win: Laura Dern

My Choice: Scarlett Johansson

  • Cinematography

I’ve seen four of the five, but this surely has to go to Roger Deakins for 1917. His work is helping create the one-shot style of this film makes the film what it is. If that didn’t work, the film would have far less power than it does.

Will Win: 1917

My Choice: 1917

  • Orignal Score

Music is always hugely important to my cinema experience and a great score shines out, while not taking over the film. All those nominated do this very well this year, but it has to be Joker, as Hildur Guonadottir’s score helps to create the mood of the film and with some themes written before filming even started, the music really does feel as though it’s another character.

Will Win: Joker

My Choice: Joker

  • Original Screenplay

I’m probably starting to sound predictable by this point, but for me this should go to Parasite, for the sheer originality of the storytelling. Yet, I won’t be surprised if the Academy awards Tarantino.

Will Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

My Choice: Parasite

  • Adapted Screenplay

I think this will perhaps be where the Academy attempt to make up for that directing snub and acknowledge the work of Greta Gerwig, which I’m more than fine with, as the writing choices for this version of Little Women were a huge part of why I enjoyed it so much, although I do have a huge amount of love for JoJo Rabbit.

Will Win: Little Women

My Choice: JoJo Rabbit

  • Visual Effects

I’m assuming this will go to 1917, but for me I’d choose Avengers: Endgame; a film which deserves something for being such a damn good film.

Will Win: 1917

My Choice: Avengers: Endgame

  • Production Design

I’m less certain about this one, but I’d probably choose 1917, for creating such a very real world over the course of the journey of those characters. I’ll say the Academy will agree, but who knows!

Will Win: 1917 (maybe!)

My Choice: 1917

  • Makeup & Hairstyling

I honestly cannot decide who will win here, but personally, I think Bombshell deserves it, for all the effort to transform the actors in to those people, so that it was almost uncanny.

Will Win: Bombshell (maybe)

My Choice: Bombshell

  • Costume Design

Another one that I’m not confident about, but I’d give this to Little Women.

Will Win: Little Women?

My Choice: Little Women

………

As I’ve not seen the short films and documentaries, I won’t try and predict anything there and my knowledge of sound mixing and editing make these categories I’d be simply guessing. As for editing, I’ve heard a lot of talk about Ford v Ferrari, which as I haven’t seen, I can’t really comment.

I know this is late (blame the UK’s late release of Parasite!), but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

My films of the Decade!

I’ve reflected on my theatregoing over the decade and my top television choices, but before I look ahead to films and theatre I’m excited to see in 2020 (those posts will be up over the next few days), I thought I’d have a think about my film highlights from the last 10 years. I’ve seen some people have decided to choose one film from each year of the decade, but if this is going to be my top 10 films, then I’m giving myself the flexibility of picking more than one from any one year.

So, in no particular order, these are my favourite film since 2010. It’s a personal list. They may not be the most critically acclaimed, but they are the ones that I was most impressed by, or which I love watching again and again.

Inception (2010)

I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s work (no other Batman is needed for me thanks) and not only did Inception impress me from the first time I watched it, but it is one of the few times I’ve experienced a regular public cinema audience applaud at the end of a film. It was clever, visually stunning and required its audience to focus and pay attention, not to mention a strong cast and a perfect score from Hans Zimmer.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

I admit, I struggled for a long time to choose between Infinity War and Endgame, but in the end, I went with the one that served as the final chapter of the Infinity Saga (Spiderman: Far From Home aside). I loved Infinity War, but the fact Endgame managed to tie up the stories of so many characters in one film, in such a satisfying way, was beyond anything I could have hoped for. It was also thrilling, nostalgic, and contained the right amount of emotional gut punches. Plus I could listen to the “Portals” music cue on repeat all day.

12 Years A Slave (2013)

From my first viewing at the London Film Festival, which received a standing ovation from the audience (I’ve still never experienced that since), I’ve never been able to forget this film. It’s always an emotional experience to watch it, as the shocking true story of Solomon Northup unfolds, anchored by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s utterly breathtaking and heartbreaking performance. Am I still mad he didn’t win an Oscar for this? You bet I am! An important story that needed to be told, which makes me cry every time. You can read my original review here.

Lion (2016)

Speaking of crying during a film, Lion is another example of a film which makes me cry every time I watch it! It tells the incredible true story of a young boy, Saroo, separated from his family in India, adopted by a couple in Australia who, 25 years later, finally sets about trying to find his roots and his mother and siblings, with the help of Google Earth (in its infancy back then). The film bravely leaves young Sunny Pawar, who plays Saroo as a child, to carry the film until it moves forward in time to the present day. It could have failed, but instead it draws you in to the traumatic and heartbreaking experiences he faced, which invests you so much more in travelling with him as he seeks to find where he comes from as an adult. With wonderful performances from Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, this remains a film I regularly recommend to people. You can read my original review here.

Arrival (2016)

Arrival may first appear to be just another alien invasion movie, but this is not Independence Day and I loved this new, intelligent and deeply emotional exploration of not just contact with aliens, but also of what it means to be human and the importance of language and communication. Linguist Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams (hopefully the next decade will see her receiving some Oscar recognition), is tasked to find a way to communicate with the mysterious aliens who have appeared overnight in the USA (and in crafts around the globe). Aided by physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), the story starts in one direction and then takes you somewhere you didn’t anticipate and it stayed with me for a long time afterwards. You can read my full spoiler-free review here.

Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out may have been presented as a children’s movie, but it also speaks to every adult who sees it, highlighting how we change as we grow up and how our memories and how we feel about them can also change and the fact it works on so many levels highlights just what a superb film it is. Who doesn’t have memories that once were joyful ones, but have since been tainted by later life experiences? Yet, Inside Out reminds us that we need the difficult memories, just as much as the happy ones and it does this through a bright, colourful story about a young girl growing up and the little creatures that live inside all our heads, representing each of our emotions. I’m not sure what it says about me that Sadness was my favourite, but I loved this film and would recommend it to people of all ages.

The Hunger Games (2012)

Some may find this an odd choice, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games movies, especially the first one and return to them often. A largely faithful adaptation of the original book by Suzanne Collins, it includes a very strong performance by Jennifer Lawrence and shouldn’t be snobbily overlooked because of its blockbuster franchise label. Add to that the wonderful support from Woody Harrleson and Elizabeth Banks and this story of a dystopian world in which children are used in a fatal game for the entertainment of the wealthy and to keep the weaker of society in line, is one very worth your time.

La La Land (2016)

La La Land was always bound to be on my list of favourites of the decade. From the first time I watched it at the London Film Festival, I absolutely loved it. It was a fun, colourful, funny, love story, which brought the magic of the classic film musicals of the past back to the big screen for a new generation. The soundtrack is so catchy, the dance numbers visually wonderful and the central performances by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are captivating. It was a superb blend of the past and the present and I left the cinema smiling every time. You can read my original review here.

Free Solo (2018)

Another incredible film of the decade was the documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold, whose goal was to climb up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, but without any form of ropes, in what’s known as a free solo climb. The documentary digs in to his life, from his childhood and the reasons he first took up climbing, as well as his attitude towards life when his climbing goals are his main focus. Through those also in his life, whether friends or family, we also see the effect of his choices on those who care about him. Watching this on an IMAX cinema screen was quite something and the tension in the room was palpable as we watched his ascent. I kept having to remind myself that it really was real and not a fictional film!

The Lady In The Van (2015)

The stage version of Alan Bennett’s play was before my time living in London, so thankfully it was turned in to a wonderful film, again starring Maggie Smith as the lady of the title and is based on the unbelievable true story from Bennett’s own life – when an elderly lady, Mary Shepherd, who lived in a little van, moved on to his driveway and stayed for 15 years! It’s a charming British film, full of humour and poignancy, as we learn more about Mary and how she came to be living this way. Alongside that, we get an insight in to Bennett and his life as a writer, as he often discusses his predicament with an imaginary version of himself; a version he’d perhaps like to be more like if he dared. Boasting a cast full of British theatre acting talent and led beautifully by Smith and Alex Jennings, this is a film very dear to my heart.

The Greatest Showman (2017)

I was late to The Greatest Showman. I admit, the critical mauling when it first arrived in cinemas put me off and I just never made time to see it. That was until I watched in with my mum after it was available to rent on a streaming service and it was not what I expected. The main reason? I loved it! Yes, it’s a bit cheesy in places and yes, it’s not all true to the story of P.T Barnum, but it was hopeful, uplifting and made me feel lighter once I’d watched it. If I’m feeling a bit low, it’s still one of the films I turn to if I need a pick-me-up. Plus, the soundtrack is wonderful, ridiculously catchy and full of heart. I’ll be in line for tickets to the Broadway show when that finally happens too!

Paddington 2 (2017)

In the same way that The Greatest Showman brings a smile to my face as I watch it, the same is absolutely true for Paddington 2. I enjoyed both Paddington films, but it had to be the sequel on this list for the added joy of Hugh Grant! For those unfamiliar (surely there can’t be many of you), Paddington is a bear that lives with the Brown family in London (voiced by Ben Whishaw), who loves marmalade sandwiches and in this film gets caught up with the theft of an antique pop-up book and the treacherous antics of an ex-actor with a huge ego (played by Grant), trying to track down hidden treasure. It’s just such a wonderful family film, that deserved far more awards recognition.

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So, those are my film highlights of the year. They are personal to me and each one brings back memories that make them special. Hopefully the next decade will bring many more wonderful films too!

My Top Television of the Decade!

I’ve reflected on my theatregoing over the decade and before I look ahead to 2020, I wanted to look back at some of the fantastic television that appeared on my screen over the last 10 years.

For me, there was so much to enjoy and with the ever growing platforms, seeing everything is now just impossible and therefore I’m fully aware that my list probably won’t include some shows that you may think should have been included, so let me know what yours were. I might not even have watched them!

1. Suits (2011 – 2019)

There really could only be one show at the top of my list. Not only was Suits a series that I’ve found entertaining and engaging since 2011 when it first appeared on Dave (that’s a channel here in the UK), before later moving to Netflix, it also provided me with some of my favourite television characters and relationships of the last ten years too. For me to truly invest in a series, especially over 8 seasons, I need to care about the characters and Suits certainly provided so many characters to root for. Whether it was quirky Louis Litt, who you couldn’t stand and then loved, the complex emotional development of Harvey Specter, the bromance of him and protege Mike Ross, or the force that was Jessica Pearson, the determination of paralegal Rachel Zane, or the fabulous Donna Paulsen, whose self-confidence saw her soar, there was a character for every viewer.

Then of course there was Darvey. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know how much I loved the Donna and Harvey dynamic, making it my favourite on screen relationship (sorry Mulder & Scully). Not only all of this, but thanks to Suits and the positive aspects of social media, I’ve made some wonderful friends through the series, as well as it providing an excuse for some Toronto holidays. You were fabulous Suits. You’ll be missed.

2. Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019)

I know so many people have declared the entire of Game of Thrones trash now, due to their annoyance at season eight and that’s fair enough, but for me, it’ll remain one of the best television series created and remains a favourite. Yes, season 8 was rushed. The story strands needed a few more episodes to breathe in the way they did in earlier years, but I genuinely didn’t hate any of it and mostly expected the conclusions that occurred, with the final episode not proving a let down for me (I’ve had that feeling with shows I’ve loved, so I feel for anyone who felt that way).

Crucially, I still view the series as a whole and in doing so simply see a series that brought wonderful characters to life, whether good or dreadfully unpleasant, or somewhere in between, by a superb ensemble of actors. With such a vast story to tell, any weak acting links would have damaged the series as a whole, which thankfully didn’t happen. Visually it was gorgeous (I would still happily pay to watch it on a big screen) and the accompanying score, especially in later years, was an extra character of the series. Lastly, it raised the audience expectation of what television should be and therefore helped raised the quality of television as a result.

3. Sherlock (2010 – 2017?)

They may be starting off 2020 with a new adaptation of a classic on BBC One, but its’s the first joint effort by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, which started in the summer of 2010, that I wanted to talk about now. Sherlock was another series that helped change television. It was clever, exciting, engaging and with two such superb lead performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, we shouldn’t be surprised how successful it (and its actors) have become. Yes, for me, the last series wasn’t as strong as previous ones (and certainly not the level reached by season 2), but it remained a must-watch drama that surpassed a lot of the competition. It might be back one day. I certainly hope so.

4. Line of Duty (2012 – present)

Bodyguard may have exploded in the US, earning recognition at the television awards, but it was Jed Mercurio’s first series that was unmissable viewing over the decade. Late to the party, I caught up as series two started and the interest began to grow following that shocker of a season two opener and I’ve been hooked ever since. Yes, series 3 was the pinnacle for me and those seasons since haven’t quite been as impressive, or as unpredictable, but Line of Duty is still one of the best dramas on television. Not only is the core team of Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar always brilliant, but the guest casts have provided some of the highlights of the decade, especially Keeley Hawes and Craig Parkinson. Roll on season 6!

5. Succession (2018 – present)

Having missed Succession last year, I finally joined the fan club this year, after a number of friends told me I was missing out. They were certainly correct about that, with the series providing some of the finest written and acted scripts on television at the moment. The fact the writing team includes a few playwrights doesn’t surprise me, with certain scenes feeling as if they are part of a stage play. Also, it’s very rare that a series only gets better and better, but that’s true of Succession, with its second series standing out as some of the best television I’ve seen. Its ensemble is also another big strength – Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong (who is being criminally overlooked by the awards), Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Braun all bring such life to these characters, as do the other supporting cast. Yes, I may not like many of them, but I love watching them. Hurry up series 3!

6. Broadchurch (2013 – 2017)

Olivia Colman may now be an Oscar winning superstar, but my favourite performance of hers of this decade is easily that of Ellie Miller in Broadchurch, alongside David Tennant. From the moment I saw episode one at a preview screening, I suspected this was going to be a very promising series and indeed series one went on to become a national talking point for weeks. The story of the murder of a young boy in a picturesque seaside town, it was tense (heightened by the superbly atmospheric score), emotional and yet still found moments for lightness, mainly thanks to the dynamic between Tennant and Colman. Later seasons may not have been as popular, but I enjoyed each series and was very sad to see it end.

7. Parade’s End (2012)

A second series for Benedict Cumberbatch on my list is Parade’s End, the five part series, adapted by Tom Stoppard, that aired on the BBC (and HBO in the USA) and his role of Christopher Tietjens is, in my opinion, in some respects better than his work on Sherlock. It was such a moving and powerful story, anchored by Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hill and Adelaide Clemens, telling the story of three people whose lives have such a significant impact on each other and are all affected by the First World War, especially Tietjens. Beautifully shot, this adaptation of a book I have struggled to try and read in the past, is a series I continue to return to every so often.

8. The Crown (2016 – present)

I’ve already spoken about the quality of television upping its game over the decade and another example of a series whose quality would in the past have been reserved for the big screen, is The Crown. Chronicling the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it impressed me right from the start (with its first two episodes remaining some of the best television of the decade for me). The production values are crazy on this series, whether the sets, costumes or score, everything is superb. Not only that, but without the talent of the original cast, including Claire Foy, Matt Smith. Vanessa Kirby, Jared Harris and John Lithgow, it was easy to forget this wasn’t real! Although I preferred the earlier years of the first two series, the third series (led by Olivia Colman) was still excellent television. Whether I’ll be able to sit through later seasons, as it delves in to the tragedies of the 1990s is yet to be seen, but The Crown was certainly a highlight of the last decade.

9. The Good Wife (2009 – 2016)

I admit that I didn’t love the last two seasons of The Good Wife, where I felt it lost its way a little, but it was still a firm favourite of the last ten years. This was an intelligent and engaging legal drama, during which we watched Alicia Florrick navigate a return to the legal profession after taking years away to raise her family, all for her husband to thank her by humiliating her on a national scale. Not only were the cases interesting, but the relationships of the characters kept me invested, as I rooted for Alicia to ditch her dreadful husband (Chris Noth) and pursue a relationship with colleague and old friend Will (the superb Josh Charles). Yet, my favourite relationship of The Good Wife? The friendship between Will and Diane (Christine Baranski). I loved them and could have watched them for years more.

10. The Hour (2011 – 2012)

I still don’t understand why the BBC stopped making The Hour after only two seasons. It was well received, won awards (including in the US at a time when this seemed less common) and had one of the finest casts of the time – Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, Dominic West, Anna Chancellor all helped bring this series about a television news programme and its staff, set in the 1950s, to life. I know writer Abi Morgan has spoken in the past about her desire to return to the story, perhaps in a film and I still hold on to hope that we’ll see that one day.

11. Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013)

Yes, this series straddled two decades, but seeing as it only continued to get better and better, culminating in such an incredible final season, it had to be included on this list. A series fully deserving of all the acclaim it received, everything about Breaking Bad lives up to expectation – the writing, directorial choices and cinematography, combined with such phenomenal acting, doesn’t come around too often. Plus it ended perfectly. It may not be a show I’ll return to as often as others on this list, whose characters I loved more, but Breaking Bad was comfortably one of the best shows ever made for television.

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So, those are my television choices of the last decade. It really has been an impressive period for the small screen. Hopefully the 2020’s will continue to maintain this level of quality!