The first proper full week of 2016 and I’m already relying on one of the largest mugs in our house to get me through this post. Tea is inspiration, and inspiration is important. Because I kid you not – a year on, and starting these posts is still a right challenge.
TV seems as good a place to start as any, even if it hasn’t been the most imaginative week in the world. I’m currently enjoying the fourth season of The West Wing, which I was convinced was my favourite series before this rewatch and I’m only becoming more stubborn about it as I keep watching. I’ve been lucky with the week’s run of episodes – ‘Debate Camp’ until ‘Process Stories’, at the very least, is a run of greatness which is paralleled quite a lot, to be fair, but each made me shout ‘I LOVE this episode!’ as soon as they started. I’ve actually worked my way through to ‘Guns Not Butter’, which means I’ve also experienced another solid episode in a line of melancholic, pivotal Christmas specials. Christmas is not a good time in The West Wing. Especially for Josh. Poor Josh.
I’ve always liked to, ideally, have two TV shows on the go which fill different gaps – and it’s been helpful to separate them by length. As you can probably tell, my forty minute show right now is The West Wing, but I haven’t had a proper twenty minute show to cling onto for a while. Generally speaking this needs to be a comedy, and if I’m craving a comedy it needs to be something like Parks and Rec or Brooklyn Nine-Nine (thank you, Mike Schur). I haven’t found anything like Parks and Rec or Brooklyn Nine-Nine recently, so predictably I just ended up watching two episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Series two has at long last made it to Netflix, which makes me surprisingly happy considering I’ve owned the DVD for months, so that’s going to be my go-to until I find something new. Like Brooklyn Nine-Nine series three, which I’ve just found out has started on E4. I don’t know how I didn’t know this before today.
Speaking of the familiar, I’ve recently upped my viewing game by finally getting a Blu-Ray player and, naturally, the first Blu-Ray I bought was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’ve wanted Marvel Blu-Rays for so long (I still don’t know why the DVDs didn’t have the same special features, and I’ve resented it since I saw some of the one-shots and learned what I was missing), and it somehow seems right that the first Blu-Ray I ever watched was basically my favourite superhero movie. I love Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but really, everyone knows that by now. I love Captain America: The Winter Soldier even more now it’s pretty and HD.
Another film I love is Pride, which I revisited this week. Pride, the semi-fictionalised story of a group of lesbian and gay people and the miners of a South Wales town for whom they raised money during the ’80s miners’ strike, could sound like it’s going to be super-sentimental and preachy but it isn’t. Instead it’s warm and it’s funny and uplifting, and yeah, tinged with sadness (the horror of the AIDS crisis is hanging over the narrative throughout). It was definitely recognised by critics at the time (it won the BIFA for Best British Independent Film and was Golden Globe- and BAFTA-nominated), but it didn’t have the sizeable audience it really deserved and that’s a shame when it’s such a good film. There’s also a really interesting short documentary on the DVD which gives some more detail about the real events which prompted the film, with some talking heads from both cast members and the people on whom they were based. If you want to be heart-warmed (and it’s winter, so of course you do), you could do much worse than tracking down a copy of Pride.
However, the greatest viewing achievement of this week has been undeniable. Oh my God – we have to talk about Jupiter Ascending. The Wachowski’s critically panned space opera starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum (as a half-man half-wolf, guys) has been on my list for a while thanks to How Did This Get Made?, and I feel like my life is slightly more complete for having watched it. There is no denying that Jupiter Ascending is one of the most stupid and nonsensical films I have ever seen, but I don’t doubt that the last time I had that much fun watching anything so ludicrous was Fast and Furious 7.
I can’t go into plot details – not because of spoilers, but because I GENUINELY couldn’t tell you why anyone was doing anything. I don’t even care though, because I was enjoying watching them do it. I liked Channing’s cool space boots. I liked Mila Kunis’ dresses (poor Mila Kunis. She’s the title character in that film and she doesn’t do much apart from scream and fall off stuff, usually wearing pretty dresses. She deserved better). I liked Sean Bean, who WAS HALF-MAN HALF-BEE. I’m desperately fighting against my urge to pun on his name. Seriously, the wolf splice I understand (even though I don’t know why they would then have wings), because they hunt. But why would you need a super-soldier bee man? There was probably a line of dialogue to explain it (every time I thought I saw a plot hole there would immediately be some exposition to explain it away, which got weird by the tenth time) but I was too busy cackling to notice. THE FILM IS PREPOSTEROUS.
However, most importantly, it is also the next film paying audiences saw Eddie Redmayne in after he won his Oscar. If you need to know just why that is so magnificent (or if you are a fan of joy generally), there is an illustrative YouTube cut below. So, yeah, excuse me. I’m off to run around my house shouting/whispering (Eddie somehow makes that a thing, the magician) ‘I CREATE LIFE’ repeatedly. The first film I’ve seen in 2016, and I’m not even sure how I can improve on it. Good grief.