Highlights from the last month, as chosen by the entertainment enthusiasts at Red Bee.
BEST DRAMA #1: CALL MY AGENT
We’re charmed and amused by this in equal measure. A chic comedy about ruthless actors’ agents set against the Parisian skyline. Now on its fourth and final series, it’s fame has spread far enough to attract American star, Sigourney Weaver, following hot on the Louboutin heels of the likes of Isabelle Huppert and Beatrice Dalle. All of whom gamely play themselves. We love it because it’s fun and feisty, but it’s also because it’s complex, tackling real issues within the industry. It’s been one of our favourites, ever since we filmed some of the stars for France 2’s idents. At the time, we’d never heard of Dix Pour Cent, as it was called. Now, we’re gutted to have to bid adieu.
BEST DRAMA #2: IT’S A SIN
Brainchild of Russell T Davies, this drama explores sexuality and the discovery of AIDS in the 80s. Sassy, funny, fresh and yet heartfelt, it follows the lives of three young gay men, Ritchie (Olly Alexander), Roscoe (Omari Douglas) and Colin (Callum Scott Howells), who move to London. Interwoven against an epic soundtrack are their personal stories and struggles of shame and judgement and how they each choose to deal with the crisis of ‘the gay plague’ – denial and partying even harder – beautifully told by a cast including Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Fry, Keeley Hawes as Ritchie’s mother and a marvellous performance from Lydia West, who plays Jill, supportive best friend to the guys. The portrayal of panic, paranoia and polarisation are all quite poignant and relevant today.
BEST POEM: THE HILL WE CLIMB – AMANDA GORMAN
It was a big pulpit to fill at President Biden’s inauguration. Lady Gaga, J Lo, Garth Brooks. And then along comes this petite girl/woman in a sunbeam yellow coat. Five minutes later, everyone in the world would know her name. From the moment she started reciting, we leant forward and were mesmerised by every word, every rhythmic pause, every purposeful intonation. It captured the turmoil, the self-destruction and hope that Americans have lived through and the world has witnessed. Many lines have been quoted, but our pick represents the necessity of acknowledging the past in order to deal with it.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
BEST FILM #1: SOUL
The smart decision by Disney to drop its new Pixar animation, Soul, on Disney+ on Christmas Day prompted several of us to sign up over the festive period. We were rewarded by an enchantingly-beautiful story that allowed us to escape the grim realities of a winter pandemic and contemplate an otherworldly domain with a luxurious free jazz soundtrack. Soul’s plot defies elevator-pitch simplicity: Joe, a jazz pianist (voiced brilliantly by Jamie Foxx) has a near-death experience and finds himself (or a spiritual version of himself) in “a world beyond” that’s both a preview of the afterlife and a transitory “before life” zone. What follows is a captivating sequence of events involving (no spoilers) an encounter with a fresh soul known only by her number (22, played by Tina Fey) and a re-examination by Joe of his life on earth. Co-directed by Pixar legend Pete Doctor, Soul feels, at the same time, classic Pixar yet breathtakingly fresh and unexpected. In the words of The Guardian’s 5-star review: “a deeply sweet, happy, gentle film” – just what we all need right now.
BEST FILM #2: ANOTHER ROUND
At a time when there sometimes seems very little enjoyment in lockdown, a bottle of wine can be very tempting. Masterful Danish film, Another Round, takes the notion of finding solace in a bottle to new levels. This mid-life crisis tragicomedy stars Mads Mikkelsen as one of four jaded teachers who experiment with being under the influence of alcohol throughout the working day, based on psychiatrist Finn Skarderud’s theory that human beings operate better with a steady blood alcohol content of 0.05. The initial positive results lead them ever deeper into experimentation with unintended darker consequences, but overall the movie is intoxicating in a good way and says much about where we can find real joy and liberation in life.
Stay tuned for more next month