Sunday, February 28

The year in review – my favourite shows on TV and the movies

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IT has been a great year for the movies and on our television sets too, and the abundance has carried forward into the music industry as well – as most of the finished products we were lucky to watch throughout this mostly locked down year of 2020 (since March 18,2020), were fortunately produced and ready for us to view and enjoy before the restrictions were enforced on the film and music industry due to the coronavirus.  We can all expect a dirth in the quality of film and TV productions this year and probably up till 2022 but yet I am optimistic.

In the meantime, with great fanfare let me present to you the list of some of my personal favourites for the past 12 months – movies, TV films and mini-series as well as the music I’ve enjoyed throughout the year. (Sorry bookworms, there’s not enough space this week to include the books and magazines much as I’d love to!)

All the rankings are not in any order of preference, nor listed alphabetically, but purely at random, as they were almost without exception, equally loved and enjoyed.

The feature films – my favourite top 10 (of a great many!) :

– Minari   (Korean, director Lee Isaac Chung)

– Nomadland   ( director Chloe Zhao, star performance by Frances McDormand)

– Dead Pigs  (Chinese, directed by Cathy Yan, released in 2018)

– The Trial of the Chicago Seven  ( director Aaron Sorkin, great ensemble cast)

– Da 5 Bloods   (director Spike Lee, great screenplay and locations)

– Ordinary Love  ( actors Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville)

– Sound of Metal  (star performer Riz Ahmed, director Darius Marder)

– One Night in Miami  (director Regina King, terrific screenplay)

– Never Rarely Sometimes Always  (director Eliza Hittman,actor Sidney Flanigan)

– Tenet  (director Christipher Nolan, futuristic chaos and confusion ,great SFX)

The full length feature documentaries, just 6 of them made the grade for me:

– The Booksellers  (director D.W. Young)

– The Social Dilemma  (director Jeff Orlowski)

– Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson & The Band (director Daniel Roher)

– Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You  (director Thom Zimny)

– Bee Gees: How do You Mend a Broken Heart?   (director Frank Marshall)

– Seven Worlds, One Planet  (BBC, narrator Sir David Attenborough)

There were really some great and amazing films and performances among these ten feature films, of which I am rooting for wins in their various categories in the awards season for Frances McDormand, Riz Ahmad, and a whole bunch of honours for that small intimate revelation of a film from Korea (but produced in America) – Minari.

Did you know that “minari” is the name of that small water-edged reared small leaf vegetable akin to our watercress that’s very popular among Koreans but I’ve found out from friends who’ve visited Korea and having tried it said it’s got a very strong and strange unique  flavour which somehow is somewhat off putting to their Chinese palates. Strange isn’t it?

In that list of ten movies there were three that to start with I had never expected to like, what to say enjoy and admire – and one that I’m still befuddled and totally confused by, but had really enjoyed the ride. I’m sure you can guess which these are.

Not surprisingly the 6 documentaries listed had included the whole spectrum of my personal interests both work wise and at leisure.  On books and reading, libraries and bookstores – ‘The Booksellers’ was a total revelation!  ‘The Social Dilemma’ continued where Zuckerberg’s earlier Social Network had left off and I’m sure pretty soon there’ll be a third in the series called ‘The Social Future’.

Then there’s my bread and butter – the wildlife nature films of the likes of the BBC, Discovery, NatGeo and Travel Channel – of which the best has always been Sir David’s docos, year in and year out. He hasn’t disappointed…ever!

A trio of incredibly well produced and superb insights into the world of music – that of three giants the Boss, the Band and the Bee Gees (by sheer coincidence all the wonderful B’s in the business!) Being a lifelong fan of all three, it came as a real treat as I had sat and had taken a look into the private lives and the highs, lows  and sorrows of all these three wonderful group of artistes at the height of their prowess. Bruce in Letter to You had produced some of his best music in years; the Band showed us deep dark secrets of their five different characters and how they broke up – so too the Gibb brothers from Australia, the Bee Gees, after disco had virtually destroyed them with two of them  Maurice and Robin dying young.  If you’re a fan of any of these 3 greats please search out these docos and WATCH THEM!

Here next is my list of the television programmes I had enjoyed, an odd 11.

– The Queen’s Gambit (a star turn by Anja Taylor-Joy on the joys of chess!)

– The New Pope  (Jude Law and John Malkovich casts a spell on all believers.)

– The Crown (Season 4 – Olivia Colman and Gillian Anderson triumphant!)

– Ozark  (Season 3 – Jason Bateman, Laura Linney and Julia Warner were great!)

– Warrior  (Season 2 – based on Bruce Lee’s writings, Andrew Koji, Olivia Cheng and Dianne Doan are bright shining stars from the Asian American acting guild!)

– Succession  (Season 2 – without a doubt my #1 fave TV show right now!)

– Yellowstone  (Season 3 – Kevin Costner & Kelly Reilly in a Dallas like western,very gangster mafia themed family drama, rather Shakespearean overall!)

– The Undoing  (Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant doing their star turns.)

– The Third Day  (Jude Law caught up in a mysterious drama laced with  the supernatural)

– Away  (Hilary Swank lost in space will have you on the edge of your seat!)

– The Mandalorian (Season 2 – what can you say except more Star Wars adventures  by a fanboy!)

It has been a mightily good year for the miniseries on television. Netflix is now in full bloom with Amazon Prime and Disney Plus as well. For others there’s lots of streaming on the net, there’s YouTube videos and much more still on the commercial sites found all over the net. One can never be short of content, from cartoons for the kids to sports for the men, and drama and full feature films for all the rest. It’s a movie content utopia right now.

Let’s just hope that the quality continues to improve with the amount of new content and with more subscribers that the rates will continue to drop in the near future. Let’s also hope that the censor’s scissors will not be too sharp nor will come a dreaded time of any sort of witch hunt that may and can suddenly assault us at any time – for reasons of sexual content, religious, politics or perceived dubious ‘whatevers’. Personally I also look forward to more foreign films, features and documentaries, as all of them now come complete with English and/or other subtitles.

I hope you have enjoyed going through my lists and also that you might discover one or two gem there that you haven’t seen or heard of, and may want to give it a try. If you do, my work is done. I’ve introduced you to something new. Take care and keep well. Stay safe, stay home, watch movies, TV and listen to all the music you want.  God Bless.