The best of entertainment from June 2019, as chosen by Red Bee’s entertainment experts.
Best Documentary: DIEGO MARADONA
For some, Maradona is primarily remembered as the villain from the legendary 1986 World Cup quarter-final in Mexico, where his ‘hand of God’ goal put England out of the tournament. However, this explosive documentary paints a much more intricate and complicated portrait of a man blessed with such talent on the pitch, but dogged by the many temptations off it, with much of the action centring on the drama that ensued after his unexpected arrival at low-ranked, poverty-stricken Naples. With access to a wealth of never-seen-before archive footage, Asif Kapadia and team have compiled a scintillating biopic that’s part-sports drama, part-gangster film, charting the rise and fall of the man still considered by many to be the most talented footballer of all time.
BEST TV DRAMA (1): YEARS AND YEARS
Never mind our monthly picks, Years and Years is good enough to rank amongst the very best TV dramas of the last decade. An unsettling yet believable vision of UK life in the near future touches on many inter-related themes that are all too worrying in our 2019 reality: the climate emergency, extremist politics, the refugee crisis, good and bad uses of technology, impending financial storm clouds, superpower geopolitical tensions and much more. All of this is wrapped up in the gripping saga of one extended family that hurtles along with a banging soundtrack and superb ensemble cast, amongst which Lydia West emerges as a future superstar and Jessica Hynes turns in a performance that demonstrates her Colmanesque talent and versatility. And that’s not to mention the remarkable Emma Thompson as a terrifying populist politician who is only a tad more grotesque than some of Westminster’s current finest. Magnificent TV from the imagination of Russell T. Davies.
Best Stand-up Comedy: AHIR SHAH – ATTIC ARTS CLUB, CYRSTAL PALACE
As with any pre-Edinburgh rehearsal performance, Ahir Shah served up a fairly shambolic rattle-through, with a selection of thoughts that may or may not make the final cut. But, as with all great comedy, the pointedness of the content doesn’t suffer from a lack of polish. Shah manages to go heavy whilst also keeping the mood light, and regaled the audience with insights into the effects of mental illness, the awkwardness of writing sets about relationships that have failed by the time you get to perform them, and how it feels to burn your dead parents. To see the final product, head for Monkey Barrel this August.
BEST BOOK: AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE BY TAYARI JONES
Written by the brilliant Tayari Jones, An American Marriage tells the story of a perfect union worn down and eventually broken by a wrongful conviction. The unique way in which Jones uses race, not as the focus of the story but as the stage on which a tale of love and loyalty plays out, distinguishes this from other stories about racial injustice. It’s a subtle, moving, heart-breaking and, at times, joyous read, which deservedly won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
BEST TV DRAMA (2): BIG LITTLE LIES – SEASON 2
Hands up who thought that season 1 was a perfect story? Who feared that, in eking out another season of Big Little Lies, HBO risked going the way of The Affair and many other initially good TV dramas that outstayed their welcome? Well, all concerns were allayed after just a few minutes of episode 1 with the introduction of a wonderful new character: Meryl Streep as a somewhat sinister mother-in-law looking for answers (no spoilers), alongside the existing A-list cast. With superb direction from the British Andrea Arnold (remember Fish Tank?) and a tastefully-curated soundtrack, Big Little Lies is an addictive, escapist summer treat.
Stay tuned for more in July