July/August 2020 Viewing Diary

Let’s get to it. July and August have been very … extra. Movies are fine, but I am gravitating towards series, anything I can binge-watch. I get clicked into something that interests me, and then feel so relieved that I have three-four-five seasons to take up my time. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t put one of these up in July. Just not watching a hell of a lot. I mean, if I counted all of the YouTube reactions, all the YouTube reactors, the insanely rigorous and entertaining hip hop YouTube community … that’s where I’m spending most of my time. I wish the landscape of film critics was as fun and as engaged as the hip hop commentary landscape. Just one example: Big Sean (whom I really like) dropped a new album on Friday with almost no warning. He teased it on his Insta, posting the track list, and the world went NUTS. The YouTubers put up videos of speculation, rampant excitement, etc. It was a community event, a bunch of people from – literally – around the world, basically saying, “Holy shit, I am so excited” all at the same time. One song in particular got the most chatter: “Friday Night Cypher.” An old-fashioned cypher featuring a roll call of Detroit-area rappers, ending with Royce and Eminem, doing back to back verses. If you’re tuned into the rap world and the YouTubers who follow the rap world it was like a bomb went off. I suppose this happens when film critics get teased that a New PTA is in the works, a new Wong Kar Wai, a new whatever … similar bombs go off through the community. But … I don’t know. There’s less EXUBERANCE, in my opinion. So Big Sean’s album dropped on Friday, and ever since then everyone has been putting up videos analyzing each bar, talking about who had the best verse, etc. So yeah, if I counted each one of these videos for my “monthly viewing diaries”, it’d be 100s of entries long. In the meantime, here’s what I managed to get through in the last two months.

The Chair, episode 1 (2014)
People who hang around a lot on YouTube are probably aware of the Shane Dawson Debacle. I got sucked into the drama, because there’s a pandemic and it was a stupid meaningless distraction. I was unaware that back in 2014 Dawson won a contest where he got to write/direct and also star in his own movie – because yeah, that sounds like a good use of resources – and there was a reality TV series attached to the “film” “project”. Dawson was such a nightmare, so poorly behaved, so entitled, it was too cringey for me to watch more than one episode.

Hamilton (2020; d. Thomas Kail)
One of the big thrills of my life was going to see Hamilton with Mum and Ben. It was such a memorable and intense experience. Mum and I holding hands during the opening number, Mum gasping with laughter next to me, getting swept away by the new-ness of it all, loving every single second of it. Those of you who’ve hung here for a long time know my feelings about Hamilton. I’ve probably written more about him than about Cary Grant! So the fact that this musical … with hip hop music … was becoming this THING … Hamilton finally going mainstream … was so FREAKIN GRATIFYING. And even better than that: how GREAT the show was. I was so glad it was GOOD. Equally awesome is the film, released this past July. I’m just so glad they decided to do it the way they did it: let’s just film the play itself, with an audience there. Let’s not try to re-think it for the movies, and “open it up”, and have them singing the songs as they walk through Revolutionary-era sets with muddy streets, and etc. Let’s just see the PLAY. The play that so few people have actually been able to see (especially because of the pandemic now, with national tours canceled. But it was hard to get a ticket even way back then. People were paying outrageous amounts for tickets. It was that kind of show.) I watched Hamilton on Disney about 5 times in 2 days. Not an exaggeration. And I’ll keep watching. It captures that exhilarating experience I saw live, and I am so grateful it exists.

8 Mile (2002; d. Curtis Hanson)
When I knew I needed to write something about Eminem (it had been building since the January release of his latest album), I watched 8 Mile again. Just for fun. I saw it in the theatre a couple times when it was released. 2002 was The Year of Eminem, and – speaking as a traumatized New Yorker post-9/11 – letting my obsession with Eminem FLOW in 2002 was like THERAPY. There was a hole in lower Manhattan. New York took much longer to “recover” than the rest of the country. Hell, years later there was STILL a hole in lower Manhattan. We were wounded. It happened here. We saw it. That hangover lasted. I’ve said before – The Eminem Show dropped in 2002, into the insanity of that jittery year, and those overall jitters are in the album. The Anthrax line. You’d have to remember 2002 and the Anthrax scare to get how much he was speaking into the reality. The panic about Anthrax was real. Eminem had a lot on his mind. He was the biggest star in the world by then and he didn’t soften his blows. I mean, “Square Dance.” That’s a political song: he’s already feeling the war machine moving into place, he’s furious, he already hated Bush – hell, he hated the Clintons and Gores too – (well, Tipper and Hillary) because they were heading up the fight against his lyrics. But he’s talking real shit here: when I hear this song, I hear 2002. I hear September 11. I get so frustrated by dummies who are like, “Wow, Eminem dissed Trump. He’s getting all political now.” You’re showing your ass. It’s okay to not know the past but at least know that you don’t know the past. 8 Mile opened in 2002. So that year he had an album release AND a movie – based on his life.It’s a testament to how huge he was at the time that this didn’t seem like overkill. Just trying to look at things through a long lens. Like I said in the piece I wrote about him: there was a void in the culture leading up the Advent of Eminem. A huge void. He filled up that void, and it’s why his rise felt so endless. Down to brass tacks: 8 Mile is really good and worthy of him.

Palm Springs (2020; d. Max Barbakow)
I was surprised by how much I loved this. It was very funny but it also has this melancholy aspect – a bittersweet thoughtful aspect – which took me by surprise. I recommend it. I reviewed for Ebert.

Flannery (2020; d. Mark Bosco)
A new documentary about Flannery O’Connor. I reviewed for Ebert.

Yes, God, Yes (2020; d. Karen Maine)
Another nice surprise. A sweet and funny movie about a girl at a Christian retreat dealing with having sexual feelings for the first time. It’s got a super light touch but it’s about an important topic. I was a teenage girl once upon a time. I could have used a film like this. I reviewed for Ebert.

Straight Outta Compton (2015; d. F. Gary Gray)
I loved this movie. It did a really good job capturing the rise of NWA and how feared they were by TPTB. If that “fear” reached my consciousness, living in a little beach town in Rhode Island, then you KNOW it was widespread. But I loved all those guys, and continued to follow their various solo careers (and still do). I wrote about Straight Outta Compton when it opened. Haven’t seen it since and it holds up.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019; d. Quentin Tarantino)
God, this movie. I love it so much. This is my 6th time seeing it, I think. Thank you, Quentin, for making it.

Every Little Step(2009; d. James D. Stern)
I had never seen this documentary about casting the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. It’s phenomenal. It includes the lengthy and grueling audition process, following a couple of different people. It’s a really great insight into how hard people work, and how difficult auditioning is – and you watch people improve, or take corrections – OR, NOT improve, and not be ABLE to take corrections. I laughed, I cried, it’s great. Not sure if you’ve seen it, but this new cast – the revival cast – now all in quarantine – put out a gorgeous video of all of them performing the opening number from their various homes. Emotional.

Phantom Thread (2017; d. Paul Thomas Anderson)
I was actually afraid to see this again. I saw it the one time, at the Directors Guild (with the cast and director in attendance), and then wrote my first cover story for Film Comment about the film. I loved it so much I was hesitant to revisit it. I put so much work and heart and thought into that cover story, it’s like I tapped out my interest. What fun it was to see it again! It’s so FUNNY.

I Used to Go Here (2020; d. Kris Rey)
I really enjoyed this film. Gillian Jacobs is wonderful. I reviewed for Ebert.

Jackass (2002; d. Jeff Tremaine)
Inspired by a random Twitter thread, I decided to watch the Jackass trilogy. I’m not exaggerating when I saw they helped get me through August. I laughed so hard at Johnny Knoxville testing his rocket-skates I legit almost peed my pants. I haven’t laughed like that in a long long time and it felt like the laughter dissolved anxiety and worries, I felt LIGHTER afterwards.

Jackass Number Two (2006; d. Jeff Tremaine)
It’s really interesting to see how the “jackasses” push the envelope here, doing things that push the boundaries even further (a fish hook through your cheek? a brand in the shape of a dick on your ass cheek?). I love these guys. The thing I get above all else is how so much of what they did was for each other and that’s what really READS.

Jackass 3D (2010; d. Jeff Tremaine)
Heaven. Closing out with a Busby Berkeley-type musical number? Too much. Very emotional. Like I said: this trilogy helped me survive August.

He Ran All the Way (1952; d. John Berry)
Such a good film. John Garfield, and the family he’s holding hostage, Shelley Winters as the daughter who unwittingly invites this menace – who isn’t really a menace – into her home … The desperation and fear … This would work beautifully as a stage play, since it’s basically one set. Maybe it started out that way, I don’t know.

Red Penguins (2020; d. Gabe Polsky)
A fantastic new documentary about the Red Penguins, the Russian hockey team post-Soviet-collapse. The Wild West of early 1990s Russia. Gabe Polsky is an excellent director (see also: Red Army).

The World’s Most Wanted (2020; on Netflix)
Oh, you know I tore through every episode of this shit.

Spree (2020; d. Eugene Kotlyarenko)
I did not like this. It gave me a headache. I reviewed for Ebert.

Married at First Sight (2019; on Netflix)
Shit got bad in August. I was desperate for a binge-watch and this came up on Netflix. I inhaled it. It’s actually a fascinating social experiment and I like the non-salacious and actually serious approach.

The Vow, 1-7 (2020; d. Jehane Noujaim, Karim Amer)
As is probably not a surprise, I followed this branding-sex-cult thing as it unfolded in real time. It’s right up my alley: mind control, powerful charismatic leaders, corruption, lies, cults. I had been looking forward to this. The approach is subtle, and requires patience (I like it for that reason). It doesn’t reveal all its cards in the first episode. You don’t get around to actually breaking down the persona of that asshole in charge until around episode 6 or 7 … like what a liar and grifter and con-man he was … You have to wait on that. It’s amazing all of the footage they’ve gathered together: the lectures, the classes, the interviews … Like I said, I’ve been very into this story and have seen a couple of the clips here, but much of it is brand new to me. Allison Mack, what the ever-loving fuck. I have more to say about this. The moment where Mack first met Keith R. is captured on camera. He literally dislodges her from her old life, her pillars, her belief system – during the course of their first meeting. You can SEE him do it. It’s so subtle, so sinister. And she was susceptible, she was searching, she was looking for meaning, etc. But he took from her THE THING she said that made her most happy (art) and made her question it. This literally happens in a 5 minute clip. She leaves the interaction altered forever. I want to write more about this because it shows how brainwashing works: it’s so subtle. He smelled her need, and deconstructed her with ultimate swiftness and she didn’t even realize it had happened. It’s a terrifying clip.

Sex Education (2019; created by Laurie Nunn)
Mitchell turned me onto this British series, and I flipped out. It’s so good and absolutely unimaginable in our Puritan-sex-negative-American landscape. I also just totally clicked in with all of these characters. Eagerly waiting for Season 3 although who knows if that is even in the cards anymore.

Love Fraud (2020; d. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady)
Been a big fan of Ewing and Grady’s work ever since Jesus Camp, which is, legit, one of the most frightening movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve followed them through their years. Their latest is a mini-docu-series or whatever you want to call it about this guy who … well, he was married/in love/involved with multiple women at the same time, defrauding all of them. This wasn’t so much a “Dirty John” type scenario as it is its own weird hybrid. He did take money from these women, but not a lot. These were middle-working-class women. It seemed to have been emotional, what he wanted. Or maybe just a port in a storm. He would marry these women and then instantly change. The doc is fun because the women all find out about each other, update a blog devoted to his whereabouts, and hire a bounty-hunter-woman to track this guy down, for revenge sure, but also to save other women from getting entangled with him.

Chemical Hearts (2020; d. Richard Tanne)
A very serious teenage coming-of-age drama. I reviewed for Ebert.

Chasing Happiness (2019; d. John Lloyd Taylor)
Sat out on the porch one night with Mitchell, drinking whiskey, and watching this documentary about the Jonas Brothers. I got educated! I have a couple of their songs, and their fame was so huge it of course reached my radar but … I had the wrong idea about them. Or, my ideas were really vague and not based on anything. I didn’t scoff at them, because I never scoff at what teenagers love: I’m way too close to my own teenage self (emotionally) to scoff at such strong feelings (particularly when it’s teenage girls having said strong feelings. I’m happy they have the outlet!) But I didn’t know anything about their beginnings, OR about what their stage show was actually like. Now I REALLY get it, now I get why their fan base is what it is. They will have that fan base forever. Mitchell is encyclopedic in his Jonas-Brothers-Lore, so it was a blast discovering them with such a knowledgeable guide at my side.

First Cow (2020; d. Kelly Reichardt)
Love Kelly Reichardt’s work and had been really looking forward to this. It’s excellent, a mournful gentle story about two men who pair up to make delicious biscuits for their rough frontier town, but these biscuits require stealing milk from the “first cow” in the territory. It’s about their relationship, but it goes much deeper than that. You could say it’s about America. The film hits hard but it’s not cynical, at least not about these two men. I loved this relationship.

Mattias & Maxime (2020; d. Xavier Dolan)
Xavier Dolan’s latest feels like fanfic for a YA novel. Not that that’s a bad thing! The fanfic aspect of it is very erotic.I reviewed for Ebert.

I Am Woman (2020; d. Unjoo Moon)
Helen Reddy biopic opening this week. I will be reviewing for Ebert!

Fatima (2020; d. Marco Pontecorvo)
I thought this film was very good. I reviewed for Ebert. Pontecorvo should be congratulated for what he pulled off here.

The Leftovers, Season 1, episode 1 (2014)
I started this a while back and fell off of it around episode 4 – for no particular reason. I decided to start it again after talking with Mikey, and he was singing its praises. It’s so up my alley I’m not sure why I fell off. This time it’ll stick. I need a binge-watch. Need something to occupy my brain over an extended period of time.

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41 Responses to July/August 2020 Viewing Diary

  1. Helena says:

    It’s always a joy to read your monthly viewing diaries, Sheila!

    Here to say I absolutely love Sex Education – so glad you enjoyed it too! I can’t quite believe the show exists – it’s such a funny, outrageously frank, exuberant, and generous exploration of sex and sexuality, with a uniformly brilliant main cast. The setting is so beautiful – it looks like Narnia. And I canno believe I was watching Season 2 only earlier this year – like how could that be, it feels like a previous century :-(

    Haha and yes, somehow I also don’t have the bandwidth for films at the moment but turns out I can absolutely watch a 50-episode Cdrama about swooningly beautiful gay monster-hunting wizards set in Ancient Fantasy China 10 times in a row, (I’m lying, it’s already more than 10) so, thank you August 2020, I guess?

    • sheila says:

      Hi Helena!

      // The setting is so beautiful – it looks like Narnia. // I know!! I read an interview with the creator – who said that they consciously wanted to evoke high school as it was portrayed in 1980s American films. lol. They really wanted to make it place-less – to not have it be “British high school” – but to sort of dislocate it from geography. I’ll see if I can find the interview – it was really interesting, all the choices they made – things that worked on me subconsciously. How about where our lead character and his mother lIVE? that HOUSE. Where IS that? It’s got to be a real house, right? Perched on the edge of this valley and forest – with that VIEW? Completely unrealistic – seems like that kind of property would be owned by … a lawyer? A Lord? A tech giant? Not a single-mum sex therapist. But it’s this magical house, magical space!

      I love the series generosity. You’re so right. I was SO IMPRESSED with the slow burn of the “assault on the bus” arc … and how her trauma crept up on her – she didn’t even know she had been traumatized at first. It was such an accurate portrayal of how these things can go, how long it takes to process that something bad has happened to you.

      I also LOVED the relationship that developed between the swimming-star and his “tutor” – I adored her. I need to watch the series again – I inhaled it way too fast.

      // And I canno believe I was watching Season 2 only earlier this year – like how could that be, it feels like a previous century :-( //

      I know. So surreal. This year … my God.

      // 50-episode Cdrama about swooningly beautiful gay monster-hunting wizards set in Ancient Fantasy China //

      Okay this sounds totally rad.

      • sheila says:

        also, side note: I was so blown away by Asa Butterfield in Hugo – which feels like it came out 15 years ago but … yeah, time is so weird these days. His performance in that was one of those kid performances that impressed me so much I actually hoped he was okay – he had to go to such a dark painful place in that film – he has one moment where he dissolves into tears and it’s so real and raw I remember feeling concerned for him. Like, he’s really FEELING this – is he okay?? and children sometimes don’t separate out fiction from reality – it’s why good child actors are SO good. So it’s so fantastic to see Butterfield here, a little older – and STILL so good. He’s so talented.

        • Helena says:

          This is the only thing I’ve seen Butterfield in, although I was aware he’s already a seasoned actor. I was super impressed by how he carries the series – given his self-appointed ‘job’ it’s an intensely reactive role, but he also totally sells the funny, serious, wise and clueless totality of the character.

          //So surreal. This year … my God.//

          My god, yes – and I binged it all so quickly that there’s a lot I don’t remember but now I’m getting flashbacks for some reason to the music teacher making out with another teacher and I don’t think my brain can handle it.

          And yes, I loved the way they handled the assault storyline – that character was kind of the comedy punchline of so much of Series 1, so to see her go through go through all that trauma, it’s like she didn’t know she could even name what happened to her until her friends stepped in. And then there’s the lovely Eric! And Maeve! poor, smart, endlessly self-sacrificing, too good for this world Maeve. I do want a series 3 (already written, apparently, but you know, gestures vaguely at the world ) just to see if the writers can finally send something good her way.

          His mum – a goddess. His dad – blech.

          And oh yes, don’t get British viewers started on house prices and TV characters, it’s a never ending conversation! But anyway, just google ‘where is Sex Education filmed’ and you will be taken to the beautiful countryside around South Wales and borders. The house is a B and B, as far as I can tell, and yeah, totally and absolutely not affordable by a single mother sex-therapist, except possibly with TV money, but hey, if Lisa in SPN can live so completely beyond her means, why not Gillian Anderson?

          • sheila says:

            // I was super impressed by how he carries the series – given his self-appointed ‘job’ it’s an intensely reactive role, but he also totally sells the funny, serious, wise and clueless totality of the character. //

            He really does. I checked all of their ages – and they are all quite a bit older than high school age – so maybe that little bit of distance helps him portray the anxieties of this particular character so buried in puberty – I think it’s so insightful that too much open-and-frank sex talk at the dinner table may not be 100% a good thing?? lol

            I am loving the intel on the real estate question!! It makes perfect sense – I would imagine that B&B is booked seasons in advance. What a spot! That deck! Having your coffee out there? Amazing.)

            // (already written, apparently, but you know, gestures vaguely at the world ) //

            I know … and because this is a high school story – you can’t wait TOO long. I mean, all the actors are already into their 20s but … you can’t put that off too much longer or you’ll have 35 year olds playing high school seniors.

            I loved how it ended on this “cliffhanger” – this CLEAR chemistry between Otis and Maeve. I also love the girl devoted to creating her graphic novel – featuring tentacles (hello SPN “Fan Fiction”) – that actress played the pastor’s obnoxious wife in Emma – which came out earlier this year (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE – it feels like it came out 5 years ago). She is so completely different in both roles – it took me a while to even clock it was the same person -it yet again reminds me how British actors are so CASUALLY great at this.

            oh and you know I’m Googling “where is Sex Education” filmed right now. It feels like it’s both real and not real … like, the biking to school – the trailer park in the weird little valley – the lonely bus stops … it’s an interesting aesthetic. Not entirely real. I like it.

          • Helena says:

            //this CLEAR chemistry between Otis and Maeve//

            Yeah, they seem endgame – I hope we get to find out!

            //featuring tentacles (hello SPN “Fan Fiction”) – that actress played the pastor’s obnoxious wife in Emma//

            hahaha! ‘Fan Fiction!’ was my first reaction! She was splendidly obnoxious. She pops in a lot of TV shows and she is always excellent.

            Connor Swindells, who plays the guy who bullies Eric, is also in Emma as Harriet’s suitor Robert Martin! It was nice to see him so happy and running across the grass with Harriett to that beautiful music. Just a lovely way of signalling how joyful and suited they are to each other.

      • Helena says:

        //Okay this sounds totally rad.//

        It actually totally is, in lots of ways.

        The Untamed.

        I am engulfed by it.

        • Jessie says:

          I have seen gifs of this and between the costumes and the hair I am not surprised :D

          • Helena says:

            hahaha! I thought you might have caught sight of this! (you might enjoy the book, if you have a moment to read things these days!)-

            And YES the hair, and also the eyes, the cheekbones, the MUSIC, the pining, the longing glances, the snow, the lotus lakes, the cascading waterfalls, the kinky minor villain, THE REAL VILLAIN, the plot twists, the Romance, the hero who says “I think I’m adorable’, the stories within stories, the bunnies, the honest-to-god amount of eye-fucking, the MUSIC, the at times endearing 1980s level of crap special effects, the strawberry jam blood spatter, the more-swooning-than-the-Mort-D’Arthur, the nothing short of miraculous way they landed the ending, and did I mention the music?

            So yeah, Jessie. This show.

          • Helena says:

            Almost forgot. The swordfights. The rooftop drinking sessions. The sparkly headpieces. The moonlight.

          • Jessie says:

            what a list!!! I have basically been on an exclusive due south/sports night/top chef/limmy’s show loop for the last three months and I need more sparkly headbands in my life.

        • Helena says:

          Due South!! I hit Due South pretty early on in lockdown but the fact I have it only on DVD makes it less suitable as Constant Background while I am supposedly working. :-(

          //what a list!!! //
          Hahaha! This was the shortest possible version I could manage!

  2. Kim says:

    I always enjoy your watching diary-sometimes I get get great ideas from your watching. I started a spreadsheet recently to see how much TV I’ve watched since Mar-it’s unbelievable. I’ve watched so much I got my watching history from NETFLIX so I could backtrack. First thing I watched from home was a PBS American Experience doc about the 1918 influenza epidemic. Because I was on a roll I watched the one about the Dust Bowl, which led me to the Ken Burns doc about the Dust Bowl. Amazing how Americans persevered through truly horrific conditions.

    I’ve been trying to throw a few movies in between binging tv series-early on I went through all of Harry Potter, LOTR/Hobbit movies, and all of the MCU movies. My early tv watching was all comfort food tv-silly stuff like Psych, Chuck, and Eureka. I segued into rewatching some of my favorite dramas-The Americans, Battlestar Galactica (I went through every space opera I’ve ever enjoyed-but I’m picky) Fringe, and more. I needed more brain food vs brain candy so I watched the Hulu series Normal People. That was excellent-it sent me down a rabbit hole looking for really quality dramas.

    I have consumed so much tv that I am now working on foreign language programs-like the German series Dark, Babylon Berlin, Deutschland ’86. I try to watch programs that are in a language I’ve studied somewhat, like French and German, it makes it easier to follow the English subtitles (sometimes I catch very weird translations). I nearly broke my brain watching a French espionage series-parts of the series took place in the middle east so characters were speaking French and Arabic, I dreamed I conjugating verbs (badly) in both languages.

    We watched Hamilton when it came out on Disney-so well done-I could almost feel the theatre experience. My 5 year old granddaughter has watched it multiple times, she loves singing along and always cries when Hamilton dies. I want to be normal again, I’m sick of tv, I want to take my granddaughter to musicals again like I did with her older brother. When will we have live performances in a theater again? I’m incensed that that a**hole occupying the people’s house knew how serious Covid was yet chose to downplay it. I blame him for the place we’re at now-a lost summer for so many, kids going to school remotely… Sorry – I’m off my high horse.

    According to my spreadsheet I have 65 entries of what I can remember I watched. I made myself get caught up with seasons 13,14 & 15 of SPN so there’s that accomplished!

    • Carolyn Clarke says:

      Thank you, Kim. I thought that I was the only one who seemed to be addicted to Netflix and Prime Video and You Tube. I started with the usual stuff like Downton Abbey, Eureka. But now I’ve switched to crime drama, preferably British, since they’re less gory (Shetl and, Vera, Luther). I can’t start my morning until I check in with a homesteading series on YouTube. My brain will much by the end of this year, but at least I won’t be alone.

      • Kim says:

        //But now I’ve switched to crime drama, preferably British, since they’re less gory (Shetl and, Vera, Luther).//
        I loved Luther, haven’t had a chance to watch the 5th season yet. Something I have found interesting when watching European programming is the lack of violence. I recently watched a French spy series called “The Bureau.” It was character driven and had very little violence, so when it did happen it was impactful. An American espionage show would’ve had guns drawn several times every episode-I kept waiting for them to kill characters, but they didn’t. I like that. Plus the sound design is far less obtrusive than in American TV. My favorite show to put me to sleep is “Midsommar Murders”

        • Helena says:

          Hi Carolyn and Kim! Can I chime in with my love for Shetland and Vera? (really excellent detective dramas in the British tradition of Murder in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Brenda Blethyn – a goddess!) And Kim, The Bureau – one of the twistiest, most nail-biting-est dramas I have ever watched. Amazing stuff!

          I’ve started watching Korean dramas as there are now so many on Netflix – so much to explore!

          • sheila says:

            // Murder in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty //

            I love this genre. This has been one of the attractions for me in skipping around through these murder-mysteries taking place in countries I haven’t been to – with gorgeous landscapes – like Finland, Iceland … These series are all so similar, but the landscapes give this extra unique pleasure.

        • Mer says:

          Ooh British murder mysteries! Midsummer Murders is my current favorite too. It has a light touch. Vera is too dark for me. I’ve been staying with my parents the last several months, and my mother has a date with these shows several nights a week. Sometimes there are 2 or 3 shows on in a row. I’m happy to watch Midsomer, Endeavor, Morse (as a former classical musician, I like how woven it is into the show), Miss Marple, or Murdoch Mysteries.

          Bletchley Circle: San Francisco is fun because I know one of the main supporting actors. Inspector Lynley was on for a while too, though I don’t remember much about it.

          But as soon as Vera, Waking the Dead, or Prime Suspect comes on, I’m out. Just a darker mood than I want these days.

          I genuinely didn’t realize how many different shows there were on those PBS nights till now!! No wonder I can name half the working actors in England. Or at least recognize them by face.

          I still miss New Tricks. It was the funniest by far. I never got tired of the group dynamics.

          • Mer says:

            I feel duty-bound as a Canadian to clarify that Murdoch Mysteries and Bletchley: San Francisco are good old Canadian productions. Still, they’re definitely the same British-influenced detective genre. Not in the American style at all.

          • sheila says:

            // No wonder I can name half the working actors in England. Or at least recognize them by face. //

            I love this! The whole industry in England is like one big repertory company – I love that aspect of it. All hail the character actors!!

      • sheila says:

        Looks like I need to watch Eureka!!

      • sheila says:

        // I can’t start my morning until I check in with a homesteading series on YouTube. //

        Carolyn – ha, I know – I’m like this with the “YouTube reactors” – I visit them all every morning to see what they’re talking about, what songs they’re reacting to. It has nothing to do with anything else except love of music and I find it strangely comforting.

        I am going to put together a list of all the TV dramas you all are missing here. I haven’t seen any of the British series you’ve mentioned here.

    • sheila says:

      Okay finally catching up now on this thread and others. Kim – loving your comments on all the TV you’ve been watching. I’m in the same place, and I’m catching up on some stuff I missed first time around (Breaking Bad – and now The Leftovers) – but also, yeah, so into all of these international crime procedurals!

      // I watched the one about the Dust Bowl, which led me to the Ken Burns doc about the Dust Bowl. Amazing how Americans persevered through truly horrific conditions. //

      That Dust Bowl doc is incredible.

      // My early tv watching was all comfort food tv-silly stuff like Psych, Chuck, and Eureka. //

      Is anyone watching Ted Lasso? My friend Allison introduced me to it and it’s charming and silly and totally non-demanding, with very funny performances. I think it’s in the process of being aired – so I haven’t seen all of it – but I really loved what I’ve seen. The world is so dark right now!! So many things to worry about! Ted Lasso was just light-hearted, interesting concept, quirky characters – really into it.

      Everyone and their grandmother is telling me to see Normal People!! I still haven’t read the book. I try to keep up with current Irish literature, but that one I’ve missed.

      Babylon Berlin is SO GOOD. I haven’t seen the others you mentioned – Dark or Deutschland – I’ll put those on my list – thank you!

      // I nearly broke my brain watching a French espionage series-parts of the series took place in the middle east so characters were speaking French and Arabic, //

      What’s the title of this one?

      • Kim says:

        //What’s the title of this one?// Les Bureau des Legendes (The Bureau) it’s on Sundance Now. 5 short seasons. The main character, played by Mathieu Kasovitz, returns to Paris from six years undercover. He has difficulty going back to his old life and separating himself from his legend (cover) Kasovitz was incredibly compelling to watch. I think the entire first season is Amazon Prime-I think they do that now to entice you into subscribing to one of their channels, in this case Sundance Now. I made good use of my month long subscription and watched Deutschland 86 as well as The Little Drummer Girl. (Fantastic!)

        Deutschsland ’89 premieres on Sundance next month. Hurt Locker reference coming- I remember in Deutschland ’83 the Martin Rausch (played by Jonas Nay) the East German operative sent to the West, walks into a Western grocery store for the first time, the abundance of choice and the bright colors stop him in his tracks. I would recommend this series just for all the great 80’s music. (’83 & ’86 are both on HULU I think)

        //Ted Lasso// Haven’t seen it yet- but a lovely, light, French comedy I watched on NETFLIX, is The Hookup Plan. It made me laugh so much. A group of friends pay for a male escort for their friend to help her get over her recent breakup with a long term relationship. I’ll check out Ted Lasso, I’m kind of done with mayhem, although I am watching The Boys lol

  3. Carolyn Clarke says:

    Fascinating as always, Sheila. Have you tried Say, I Do on Netflix, yet? It’s an off shoot of Queer Eye for the Straight but with weddings but not really what you expect. I

    I remember seeing a lot of the older movies that you mentioned like 8 Mile and Straight outta Compton. Loved 8 Mile and I’ve seen it about 10 times. Whatever happened to Kim Basinger? Not sure how I feel about Straight Outta Compton which was an interesting movie with great acting imho, but I never felt emotionally involved like I was for 8 Mile.

    • sheila says:

      I haven’t seen Say, I Do – I’ll give it a look! There’s also a series about an Indian matchmaker that looks intriguing – sometimes these shows do the trick because they really require nothing of me as a viewer. lol

      // Not sure how I feel about Straight Outta Compton which was an interesting movie with great acting imho, but I never felt emotionally involved like I was for 8 Mile. //

      yeah, I think the focus on just one central figure – like in 8 Mile – helps. It’s more spread out in Straight Outta Compton with all the different characters. I wonder what Compton would look like to someone who didn’t follow all of that in real time – I remember hearing about the concert in Texas (I think? Or Detroit?) where the cops tried to shut down the show and the crowd rioted – just nuts, important cultural history – these fights are still being fought!

  4. Jessie says:

    The moment where Mack first met Keith R. is captured on camera. He literally dislodges her from her old life, her pillars, her belief system – during the course of their first meeting. You can SEE him do it…. This literally happens in a 5 minute clip. She leaves the interaction altered forever.
    oh my GOD! How is this on camera? I had followed this story in bits and pieces because Mack stood out on Smallville. A responsive, memorable, light performer in a really stilted and ponderous show. I always thought I would see her pick up more work so it was shocking to find out this was why she wasn’t. Is it on Netflix? I don’t know if I’ll even be able to watch it but that sounds…..my god.

    • sheila says:

      Jessie – I have no idea how this moment is on camera. It seems almost too perfect … so I wonder if there might be some shenanigans behind the scenes? My friend Allison suspects this – I think it’s legit though.

      She is PUTTY in his hands, the second they start talking. And he dislodges her from her life – there is one specific moment where you can see her break. Allison and I just spent half an hour discussing it. I saw her flailing to remember her former self – Allison saw her total submission to his new concept of her “self.” Either way, it’s freakin TERRIFYING. I will be curious to hear if you catch the same moment. I have never before seen – in real time – such a complete recruitment. What would take months of brainwashing takes what looks like about 10 minutes in her case. Ugh.

      The Vow is currently airing on HBO – I think they’re on episode 4 now – but I got a screening link so I saw the whole thing.

      Apparently when Allison Mack appeared on the stand last year – she cried with remorse about all she’s done. I wonder if that’s just because she’s afraid of how much trouble she’s in (she will probably do prison time) OR if being out of his presence has somehow broken the spell?

      It’s so scary.

  5. JessicaMR says:

    Once Upon is so surprisingly tender I remember getting misty eyed at the Adam West Batman radio ad they play over the credits. I should watch it again soon.

    • sheila says:

      It’s so tender. That montage of all the neon lights going on … it’s such a swoon of love, but pierced with loss – I have no idea how he pulled it off!

  6. Kim says:

    Helena-You should try Hinterland. One of the most beautifully filmed shows I’ve seen. Very complex, I had to put it it on the back burner though, it’s need a rewatch from the beginning for me, I forgot a lot from the 1st season. (I think I was too busy admiring the stunning views of Wales to pay closer attention to the plot)

    • Helena says:

      Oooh, Thank you Kim! that’s the Welsh one, isn’t it? I have indeed watched a few episodes Of S1 and, yes, so beautiful – loved the setting!

      My absolute favourite brand of gloomy introspective detective for the past year or three has been Endeavour. I’m not a particular fan of the original series of Morse, but it doesn’t seem to get in the way of enjoying this show on its own terms, and they make 1960s Oxford look very beautiful, and Sean Evans as Young Morse, is, I think, amazing.

      • sheila says:

        These all sound so good!!

      • Kim says:

        //Endeavour// Helena-yes! Love Endeavour. It’s so nice to encounter some kindred souls-none of my friends are into watching these types of shows-I have no one to discuss them with.

        Sheila-I think we need a thread for foriegn tv nerds (lol) Just kidding, I know you have a enough going on without creating another thread!

        I must now get off the computer and finish packing up to leave the beach-the rain is here so I’m going home.

        • Helena says:

          Kim, I have two words to say about Endeavour, OK Six words to say to you, and they are Roger Allam, Anton Lesser, and ‘Alright, matey?’ Please feel free to say All and Everything you wish about this show because I will drink it up. Have you seen Season 7 yet? I think it’s just popped up on PBS masterpiece in the States.

  7. Sarah says:

    I’m so happy you posted this! I love your viewing diaries, and you inspired me to keep my own—I’ve been doing it since 2015!

    We have so much in common, YouTube music reactors included. I’m not into rap, but the same reactors do a lot of rock, so I follow Jamel and DramaSyde and Mr Video, and many, many others. I found music reactors in October 2018, and I’m so thankful for them! Makes my day! (And the Supernatural reactors are a whole ‘nother story.)

    The Vow is amazing, The Leftovers is amazing, and I, too, have kinda been sucked into Married At First Sight. I loathe Brett. That’s my primary emotion at the moment. I am DYING to see Love Fraud now, so thanks for the rec!

    • sheila says:

      Sarah – thank you!

      I have not tripped over the Supernatural reactors! any ones to recommend? Have you found Larissa and Lauren? They mostly react to rap, but they also do skits and commentary their videos are edited hilariously – I seriously lost my SHIT laughing at something they did the other night. Recent college graduates. Awesome young women and sooooo funny. They’re one of my new pit-stops.

      Mr. Video is glorious.

      And the woman who used to call herself “India Reacts” and is now “Your Homegirl” I think – she’s so compassionate, and she goes WAY off the beaten track in her reactions. People complain because people are dumb. It’s FREE content. Don’t THESE people want to discover new music too?? Anyway I love her.

      I only watched one season of Married at First Sight – and Brett was not on it. I have been meaning to watch more – the whole experiment is kind of fascinating.

      Love Fraud is amazing – I love those filmmakers, they find such interesting subjects!

  8. Sarah says:

    I have not tripped over the Supernatural reactors! any ones to recommend?

    Love DakaraJayne. I’ve been watching with her for years. I stumbled across one of her early season 2 videos back in 2018, loved her, so I became a Patron on Patreon. Now we’re on season 11, and as much as I’ve enjoyed the hell out of all that time, I know I cannot watch season 12 again. I’m dreading getting there—I will miss this road so far…

    The Reel Rejects are sarcastic, hip, and funny, and for much of the early seasons, I didn’t feel like they took it seriously, BUT they were enthralled by season 4 and 5, and got so into it they’d forget to crack jokes. I loved that progression! We’re in season 6 now.

    Shelley (that’s her YouTube handle—must have been an OG YouTube adopter!) is on season 4. I love Shelley. She’s exceptionally smart, and she cries like I did, makeup a mess, and still talks a little after the episode is over.

    Marek Productions (his name is Marco) is approaching Swan Song, so that has been a lot of fun. He posts twice a week. Marco is in Germany, and he is EMOTIONAL—much more so than any of the women. Much teeth-gnashing and a little smack talk at whichever character is upsetting him—so fun! When Ellen and Jo were killed, he was so upset, he didn’t record for a week. He and I both, unsurprisingly, sobbed together.

    Sesskasays is just starting season 2! I like her!

    I inhaled Love Fraud over the weekend. AMAZING. That kind of story is my jam. I feel for those women! And did you notice in the interview with Scott Smith from prison at the end, his left eye would blink up a storm when he lied, and it didn’t blink at all if HE thought he was telling the truth. I know he was a storm of tics and twitches, but that left eye really caught my attention!

    And then I found Outcry, also on Showtime, about the wrongful conviction of a star high school athlete accused of child molestation that took place in 2013 RIGHT UP THE HIGHWAY FROM ME. I remember it, I know that legal community, and I know those PDs, and I know that sheriff’s office, and they’ve been the WORST law enforcement I’ve ever seen. They have a decent man for a DA now, but not when this happened. So that was an equally amazing docuseries I didn’t even know had been MADE. Thanks for that!

    I haven’t heard of Larissa and Lauren, and I’m not sure they’re for me, based on your description, but I’ll definitely check them out. I’ve been watching India Reacts/Your Homegirl since the jump! After you hang for long enough, it’s like this menu of delicious things, and you can eat a little of this, a little of that. Then the reactor either changes track, leaves YouTube, or just stops posting anything you wanna hear, and then the algorithm will offer you a sampling of these *other* YouTubers you never heard of.

    It’s FREE. That’s an important thing to remember, and I’m glad you said it! These people, if they’re lucky, make a little money from doing this. But they have to edit, and upload, and put in the time, so I feel quite fortunate to be able to revisit some of my favorite music and TV this way, and I can tell you’re having as much fun as I did, and still do!

  9. Barb says:

    Hi, Sheila,

    I’m extremely late to this, but we recently watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and I ‘m hoping to get your take on the ending. To be clear – I really loved most of this movie. The Hollywood it depicts, the cameos, the very weird vibe at the ranch, the relationship between Pitt and DiCaprio, which is strained by the fact that Cliff is and always will be the employee. Was I wrong to flash on a touch of Liberty Valance, too?

    But the ending threw me out of it, in a way that Inglorious Bastards’ end did not. Both are wish fulfillment, sure–and who wouldn’t wish that this could have happened? But I was dreading the actual scene, hoping that Tarantino wouldn’t take his camera into the house-

    So when the scenario flipped, I didn’t know what to make of it. It turned a tragedy into a farce, which for me at least robbed it of the catharsis that I think he was going for. I don’t know whether to “believe” it. Which has the unsettling effect of calling everything else into question. I get it that this is what is intended-and the self-mythologizing is even in the title. I get it. I just don’t know how to reconcile it.

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