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Bastard Boys (2007)
A credit to all involved in creating it
Given the subject matter - a long-term strike on the Australian waterfront in 1998 by union employees while the Australian government tried to break the back of the unions - I watched 'Rove' and only recorded the first episode to watch later, thinking that if I got bored, I could easily delete the rest. Wrong choice!! Firstly a big bouquet must go to Sue Smith for yet another exquisitely sharp and economical script. The direction by Raymond Quint, and the wonderful performances by an array of top Australian actors - Anthony Hayes, Geoff Morrell, Lucy Bell, Daniel Frederickson - more than adequately supported the script, and so many stood out I feel bad only naming those 4. Rhys Muldoon's quirky and distracted Julian Burnside was beautifully crafted, and courageous also, given Burnside's recent and regular appearances in the media as the barrister for the refugees. Whilst the point of view of the writer was chiefly that of the workers, we were also taken on a regular journey into the struggles facing Chris Corrigan, the boss who was prepared to sell out to the government of the day to get the unions off his back.
I suspect that not many Australians would have seen this outstanding mini-series, given the usual Sunday and Monday night competition from the commercial networks. This is saddening, as this story needs to be seen by us all. It amazes me how quickly we all forget what came before.
Brilliant, just brilliant!!
I can't help thinking that the reaction I had to this tele-play (hilarity, surprise, horror, disgust, warm & fuzzies) was probably identical to how Shakepeare's original play was received in its day. Firstly, the casting was exquisite - Rufus Sewell was a big surprise to me, but perfectly cast as the boisterous and unpredictable Petruchio; Shirley Henderson spent much of the play enraged, but wonderfully (I'm stealing her word, 'Swivel'!!); and Stephen Tompkinson performed to his usually high standard as the sad manager to Katherine's sister, played by Jaime Murray.
What can I say that hasn't already been said? It was flawless, and like the other episodes of 'Shakespeare Retold', this play captured the feeling, the mood, the bawdiness of the original play, and in turn created an emotional response in the viewer which many stodgy and underdeveloped performances of the stage-play may not be able to reach.
And another thing......... I'd never thought much of Rufus Sewell, but in this he's something of a honey!!!
Sensitive Skin (2005)
Rather than being an out and out comedy, I feel that 'Sensitive Skin' is a whimsical and often understated comedic drama. Semantics, I know, but it must be pointed out that the comedy is mostly implied, rather than being delivered with punch-lines and laugh tracks, and the viewer is always allowed to choose both if they find this funny, as well as when. I feel this show is not for everyone. You have to pay attention, as some lines just slip by unannounced.
Firstly, the couple, played by Joanna Lumley and Denis Lawson, are both well past 50, and their son (played by the talented James Lance) is still an 'adolescent' of 30-something. Viewed from the outside the couple appear to have everything, but the whimsy is in recognising the ways in which they are unsatisfied, and the comedy develops as they go about kidding themselves that they are sorted.
As in any superior storytelling, the scripts make this show, but the cast deliver every line with the professionalism we've come to expect from them. The close-ups of Lumley's face as she shuffles through her thoughts or her memories, or searches for an appropriate answer to a query from someone is well worth the trouble it takes to tune in to this unique show.
Top Gear (2002)
You don't even have to like cars....
Yes, this show is about cars, but then again it isn't. Mostly it's about extremes of opinion, dreams and fantasies, dares, one-up-man-ship, and taking everything just a little bit further. And it's also entertaining - very entertaining, which is what television is meant to be, and so often is not. I'm not all that interested in cars, and my son doesn't even drive, but we both love the show, and watch it religiously.
The balance of presenters: Jeremy, the loud-mouthed, cuttingly funny, over-bearing older guy; Richard, the young, cute, quirky, adolescent one; James, the sensitive, quiet, contemplative, intelligent one; is nothing short of genius!
It seems that no expense is spared, either on the experiments and dares, or on filming, and this adds to the visual experience. This show is funny, even hilarious at times, classy, controversial, and hugely entertaining. Most people I know who watch this show know almost less than nothing about cars, and I think that says a lot about how successfully this program reaches beyond the expected demographic of young male petrol-heads.
Bodily Harm (2002)
God, this is great TV!
Being shown as a late-night re-run on local TV, I just had to watch it again to remind myself of how good this mini-series is. And it is good. No, it's great! There's something in it for everyone - from a 40's husband-father who doesn't want to grow up, to a wife who gives head to the local sleaze-bag, to a 13-year-old girl who has to be the grown-up in the family, to the husband's parents who just want to die together, and the sooner the better. It's all just happy families, really.
If the script is excellent, then the casting is even better. Spall and Manville are blisteringly good, but then they both almost always are. In the company of clever and successful people, Spall and his teen-aged daughter feel like glaring misfits, and yet I couldn't help but believe that they are the normal ones.
This series reminds me of why it is I watch TV in the first place. If I have to watch 100 hours of dross to then find this gem, then it's worth the effort!!
Hans och hennes (2001)
Well-told relationship film...
This film surprised me. It was recently televised in Australia on SBS-TV with sub-titles. It's not a great-looking movie; this disappointed me, because, being a Swedish film, I expected lots of beautiful scenery and beautiful people. Not so - both scenery and people were very ordinary, even a bit less than ordinary. But the story - essentially about a young couple whose quest to have a child delves beneath the surface of their relationship to expose the flaws in both the relationship and each other - is quite skillfully told. In particular, I enjoyed how Johan's earlier selfishness, once he finds the truth about his fertility, escalates into child-like temper tantrums. The resolution to the story, whilst a bit quick and too much of a total turn-around to be considered realistic, is satisfying all the same.
Whilst viewing this movie I kept thinking that it was so much better by far than all those cheesy relationship films which Hollywood churns out. It's a very universal story, and could have been just as easily filmed in China or Australia or Croatia or Iceland. It's well worth seeing.
Another highly addictive cop show
This series only began (on SBS TV) here in Australia around a month ago, and I'm already hooked!! Whilst not the best or the most original cop show there is, it's well made, and the stories are believable, and the characters of the police are well drawn. Mostly, I like the balance between the crime-of-the-week and the personal lives of the detectives, where the latter never ever seems to overshadow the former, as it should be, but the personal insights into regular characters gives them substance and dimension.
I'd recommend it to anyone who likes their crime shows on TV to be straight-forward and without too much fanfare and sensation.
Sea of Souls (2004)
To go into details about what this series is about may put off potential viewers, so I won't. Essentially, it focuses on the work of a small group of academics at a small department in a university in Glasgow. The stories are told as 2-part, self-contained movies, and are about the people and the mysteries that this department investigate - unexplained behaviour, such as the sharing of experiences by identical twins who have been brought up apart.
Some Scottish drama has been excellent - remember 'Takin' Over The Asylum'? - and whilst 'Sea Of Souls' may not be anywhere in this league, it is good, and it's worth tuning in. However, if you are a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic, you may find this show annoying. For me, I felt that the skeptical view was well represented, and the real absence of explanations, or neat conclusions to each story served the subject matter particularly well.
This is what TV is about........
"Shameless" began a couple of nights ago on SBS TV - supposedly an ethnic channel (are Mancunian's ethnic, then??) - in Australia, with no warning, no fanfare. I was blown fair out of my chair by this show, and possibly appreciated it all the more because I had no expectations, although once I noted Paul Abbott's name under 'writer' I knew I was in for something special. His scripts for 'Clocking Off' and 'Linda Green' were, like 'Shameless', both sharp and original. Dialogue is quick and relevant, characters are drawn immediately, and altogether the script treats the viewer as an intelligent participant in the hilarious, and often poignant, exploits of the Gallagher family. Dad Gallagher, always a bit the worse for wear on drugs or alcohol (or both) is raging around the room talking rubbish, and Fiona, eldest child, explains to her posh boyfriend that her Dad's ecstasy dealer is a schizophrenic, like that explains everything. Perhaps it does...... If you get the chance to see this, then don't miss it.
Djavolji raj (1989)
Gently evocative WW2 tale
I discovered this film in the mid 1990's, and was so impressed I bought my own copy on video. I would call this a film-buff's film. The performances of Tom Conti and Susan George are exceptional - I believe this to be Conti's best work since 'The Glittering Prizes' - and the locations are stunning, evoking the gentle and simple life of the riverside resort before the Germans turned up.
The characters played by George and Conti are thrown together in a marriage of convenience, as she and her son are hiding from the German invaders. The best scenes are when Conti and George share the screen, and this mysterious woman begins to develop respect, even affection, for the simple man who has been nominated to protect her.
Sensitively directed, the story is told in brief vignettes which help to convey the easy lifestyle of the characters who live at and near the resort. In essence, this is the story of Anrija's (Conti)true coming-of-age, when he's thrust into an adult situation he would never have had the chance to experience had the war not happened in his particular neck-of-the-woods. An all-round superb piece of film-making.