It occurs to me that, while I’ve been very slow to begin to read long-form writing (e.g. novels & non-fiction longer than magazine articles) again, I’ve actually been watching quite a bit more new stuff than I have since before Humuhumu was born. Mostly since I no longer have to go to bed before 10 PM every night because I'm so tired. There are some spoilers here for "Planet Earth II", "Frozen" and "Paddington". The other reviews are of documentaries or are spoiler-free.~~~Television~~~Planet Earth II
: Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, of course. I have to admit, I giggled all the way through the snow leopard sequences because I couldn’t stop thinking of that sketch from “John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme”, which features a cameraman and a biologist with absolutely nothing in common, stuck up a mountain together for six months. Eventually they find common ground in mocking Sir David for continuing to narrate all these grand BBC nature programmes after retiring from field work. “We should just get an ordinary leopard and Tipp-Ex it!” “Or get an albino serval and do potato prints on him!” Er, anyway, the scope and cinematography of the programme are excellent, as one would expect, and it is fantastic at the end of the day to soar with the eagles, face-plant into the snow with a bobcat, or cheer on a baby iguana as it navigates a treacherous run through a perilous, snake-strewn obstacle course.The Missing
: This is one of those crime drama programmes that felt like it was going to be a two-or-three parter and then wrap up neatly. The BBC does that sort of thing brilliantly. The first two episodes were wonderfully suspenseful and quite scary.
Now that we’re six episodes in, it’s all gone a bit silly. I’m still on the fence with whether I’m on board with that, given how unlikeable most of the protagonists are.Masterchef: The Professionals
: Let’s be real now, I mostly watch this because of Monica Galetti, who pulls the best faces and is also, despite the lack of Michelin stars, a better chef than Mr Beardface aka Marcus Wareing. He thinks he’s the best judge on the show when he’s clearly entirely limited his tastes to fine French cuisine. Monica not only has that expertise, she also has palate that is capable of appreciating more diverse flavours. And she has the best hair.
My investment in this programme is a pale shadow of my love of Bake Off [RIP]. It peaked during the “normal” Masterchef in 2013, the year that Natalie Coleman won.~~~Film~~~Frozen
: Aaargh. I’ve seen it a few times now. I don’t love it. Too many dreadful sappy songs, not enough ridiculous snowman and reindeer dialogue. Humuhumu likes it, though she thinks the ice monster is too scary, which is why a parent has to watch it with her. Presently I’m being heavily questioned about why Hans wants to steal Elsa and Anna’s kingdom. Gosh it’s fun explaining to a four-year-old what powerful motivators greed and a lust for power can be.Paddington
: Happily, Humuhumu loves this film almost as much as Frozen, though she thinks the naughty lady (Nicole Kidman’s character) is scary. I don’t mind rewatching it with her, as it's a pretty blatant parable about the positive effects of immigration. She asks a lot of questions every time it’s on, trying to understand the moral implications of what’s happening. The last time we watched it, I had to tell her no less than ten times that no, Uncle Pastuzo wasn’t coming back, because a tree fell on him during the earthquake and he died before he could get to the shelter.The Take
: The timing of the cinema release of the film (Bastille Day 2016, the day a freshly radicalised Tunisian man drove a lorry through a crowd in Nice, France) was awful, especially given the premise - terrorism by white people is subsequently erroneously blamed on Muslims. I enjoyed this. It was action-packed, well-paced and featured a lot of Idris Elba. What’s not to like? It was also entirely forgettable; the week after we watched it, I had difficulty remembering the title. If anyone was looking for further proof that Idris Elba should be James Bond, this adds to the already enormous stack of evidence.The Man Who Knew Infinity
: The bloke and I are both great fans of G. H. Hardy’s A Mathematician’s Apology
, which lays out the working and personal relationships between S. Ramanujan and Hardy from Hardy’s perspective. This biopic attempts to show the same from Ramanujan’s. There are some great character portrayals of Bertrand Russell and John Littlewood. The film makes an effort to illustrate how the combined impact of Ramanujan’s isolation from sympathetic peers, loneliness at the long separation from his wife, poor physical condition, and Hardy’s drive to make him rigorously prove his theories, drive him to an early grave. It gives flavour for some of the barriers he faced in the form of obvious institutional and societal racism and the more subtle, unintentional racism of his allies, as exemplified by the little scene where Hardy asks Ramanujan if he enjoyed the college dinner (mutton, which Ramanujan didn’t eat because he was vegetarian). But it falls short, somehow.Hypernormalisation
: The bloke and I watched this three-hour documentary in the run-up to the US election. It’s pretty epic in scope as well as length, as it attempts to draw together historical decisions to explain how we’ve arrived at the present stage of “post-truth” politics. Its narrative begins with the ostracisation of the Syrian government by western powers and heavily leans on the use of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi as a pawn in a game of global distraction as well as the normalisation of the use of suicide bombers in modern warfare. There are a lot of diversions, including Jane Fonda and artificial intelligence research, which feed into the narrative with varying degrees of comprehensibility. The soundtrack is great (lots of Nine Inch Nails), although it feels like there are a few too many lingering shots of dismembered bodies. That said, I’d recommend it if you have the stomach, because it provides a compelling argument for the way ill-conceived political maneuvering has brought us to the stage where Donald Trump proved a viable candidate for the US presidency. It doesn’t offer any solutions, so it’s a pretty bleak viewing experience, although you may derive a certain hopeless satisfaction in contemplating becoming a devotee of nihilism afterward. Watch it for free on iPlayer here.
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