Highlights from the last month, as chosen by the entertainment enthusiasts at Red Bee.
BEST FILM - MINARI
Minari is a wonderful film. A film we need for our times right now. An uplifting, moving motion picture with a stellar performance by its ensemble cast, in particular 7-year-old Alan Kim. It walked into a small storm of controversy over its triumph as Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes when, despite the dialogue being over 50% in Korean, it is unquestionably an entirely American made movie. It raised powerful questions about what indeed an American film is anymore, if language is the sole arbiter, as Minari is a film about the American Dream. Thematically it could be about so many generations striving to improve their families’ fortunes. Turning to our area of special interest – marketing and key art - the imagery selected literally dresses itself in the stars and stripes and positions the family unit walking to a brighter future. Unquestionably this tactic is designed to draw as wide an audience as possible. In the Sundance poster surely that crop is there to cheat the casual glance into thinking that’s a baseball bat slung over Steven Yeun’s shoulder. A field of dreams indeed.
BEST DOCUMENTARY - CAN’T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD: AN EMOTIONAL HISTORY OF THE MODERN WORLD
As is often the case with Adam Curtis documentaries, his latest offering, Can’t Get You Out of My Head, feels like conspiracy theories for cultured people. He has a devious way of drawing you in with his ominous voiceover and hypnotic archive footage, making you feel like you’re lying back for a gentle brainwash. The horrifying, but also fascinating, doom-laden content aside, one thing that’s particularly notable is his renegade approach to titles. In an industry where big budgets are often spent on title sequences and crafted on-screen graphics, Curtis opts for all-caps Arial Bold throughout. And for what he’s trying to achieve, it’s effective. The big blocky supers, which pop up intermittently throughout the series, are reminiscent of unredacted text, helping tell the story with an unpolished-ness that makes you feel like this is an unofficial, and therefore unbiased, account. There are also echoes of disposable social content so frequently plastered with inelegant supers; a symptom of the smartphone age where short-form video is mainly viewed with audio off. The resulting effect is that the series feels like it doesn’t need to be viewed in one sitting but is rather something that can be dipped into repeatedly over a longer period of time, much like how one might dip into a newsfeed. Curtis always insists that he’s a journalist, not a filmmaker, and his unfussy approach to information graphics successfully reinforces this. It’s not quite news but, terrifyingly, it feels like it could be. Available now on BBC iPlayer.
BEST SERIES 1 - THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT
This new HBO comedy-drama-thriller is worth a watch even if just for its beautiful, if sinister, animated Bond-esque title sequence. The show, starring and exec produced by The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco, centres on the story of hard-partying flight attendant, Cassie. After flirting with a handsome millionaire ‘passenger 3C’ en route to Bangkok, they soon hook up and a spontaneous date turns into a hazy night of romance. Her world is then turned upside down when she wakes up in the wrong bed, in the wrong hotel with a very dead man next to her – neck gloriously slashed - and no recollection of the night before. Cuoco leads as the hot mess/functioning alcoholic flight attendant, bringing confidence, charm and deadpan-comic timing to the role. Credit must go to her, the directors and writers for pulling off a naturalistic script in such an outlandish murder mystery plot. Also worth noting are the high production values, with split-screen scenes and a narrative that jumps seamlessly from the present to Cassie’s past trauma and inner monologue. The result is a genre-bending series that flits between light-hearted comedy and psychological thriller. Given a second series is on its way, we’re confident this show is really going to take off…
BEST EXHIBITION/VR EXPERIENCE - ALICE: CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER
Explore this immersive, theatrical exhibition of all things 'Alice in Wonderland'. The most comprehensive 'Alice' exhibition ever celebrates the abundance of creative interpretations of Lewis Carroll's world-famous story. From the original idea 157 years ago, through to now, it highlights how the themes and inspiration have weaved into the world of film, fashion, ballet and art, notably Salvador Dalí's sketches, Tim Walker’s photography and Walt Disney's drawings for his now-iconic film version. Perfect for the inner-child and kids alike is the offshoot Curious Alice VR experience: for a small fee, you can tumble down into the dreamy wonderland of bright colours and wondrous characters.
BEST SERIES 2 - LAST CHANCE U: BASKETBALL
Pivoting from football, Last Chance U dives into the competitive world of basketball and follows the East Los Angeles Community College team as they navigate the 2019-2020 season and into the state championships. It documents the very complex characters and their ambitions, despite their under-privileged backgrounds and academic struggles, to achieve their dream of playing at elite level. It’s easy to become emotionally invested in the series. Can the misunderstood Joe Hampton better harness his rage? Can the painful loss that captain Deshaun Highler feels for his late mother be used to propel him forward? The protagonist is the team’s coach Josh Mosley, a prime veteran in the game with an aggressive yet effective coaching style and relentless focus on the players’ scholarships. If it’s not Coach Mosley pushing the team to question whether they have what it takes, then it’s the inner demons every young man faces as they grow up. And we can’t forget how the deadly COVID-19 virus has proven to be a battle we must all unite as a team and defend against.
Stay tuned for more next month